The lander consists of two parts: a lander that can travel down to the surface of the moon and an ascending vehicle that can take astronauts off the surface of the moon. The lander is used to travel to and from the new space station NASA hopes to build around the moon (called Gateway). If all these elements were created, the astronauts would travel from Earth to Gateway and then take the lander from the space station to the moon. Then the ascending vehicle takes them back to the space station.
Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin, said at a news conference: "We need the resources to achieve this goal and we will have to work in a different way than we used to. But I think it is feasible, and we are very excited about it. "
The new lander is separate from another concept that Lockheed revealed at the International Astronautical Congress last year. The design requires a heavier, reusable lander that takes astronauts to the moon and reassembles-without the need for separate risers. But after Vice President Mike Pence (Mike Pence) instructed NASA to advance the lunar landing deadline to 2024, Lockheed Martin has been working on a design that can be developed faster.
One of the advantages of this new lander concept is that the company will not fully build vehicles from scratch. Many of the elements needed for the vehicle come from the Orion (Orion), a manned spaceship that Lockheed Martin has been studying for the past decade. Orion will be used in the future to send astronauts into deep space and dock with Gateway in the future. Some of the same materials and systems used in the Orion spacecraft can be integrated into this new lander, such as many internal devices, flight computers, life support systems, etc. Mike Hawes, vice president and Orion program manager at Lockheed Martin, told The Verge, "this is one of our big selling points: build on what we already have." "limit the number of new elements."
At the same time, the rising part of the vehicle (probably the most critical part) will be the engine that uses the hardware called Orion Service Module. The module is a cylindrical vehicle that goes into space with Orion to provide power and support during flight. According to this design, an ascending vehicle must be able to take astronauts off the surface of the moon.
If the current timetable remains unchanged, the Orion crew and service module will fly in space at least twice before a lander is required in 2024. Lockheed Martin believes this will allow NASA to evaluate the performance of systems on Orion and modules and ultimately test many of the technologies that the lander will use.
Of course, Lockheed Martin's proposed timetable for the lander depends on NASA's ability to complete Gateway. in time by 2024. Initially, NASA's goal was to complete most of the construction of Gateway by 2028. The complete Gateway requires connecting multiple modules to create a temporary shelter and research facility for astronauts. But the deadline has changed dramatically and will make significant changes to the design of the Gateway.
"the first phase is speed," NASA Director Jim Bridenstine said in a speech at the Space Symposium. Now, according to Bridenstine, NASA basically wants to put a much smaller version of Gateway in lunar orbit first. Lockheed Martin envisions that the new pairing consists of two elements: a module that supplies power to the Gateway, and a small habitat module or node. The node will have a Orion docking port and a docking port for the lander.
As part of Lockheed's plan, NASA will launch these two major Gateway elements sometime before 2024, although NASA has not yet decided which companies will build these modules. Then, once the Gateway appears in space, the lander will be launched to the station and docked with its habitat. Finally, Orion's third flight will start, bringing astronauts to Gateway. They will then enter the lander via a small space station and may make their first lunar landing.
After NASA's dream lunar boot, NASA will focus on the second phase of its return to the moon: sustainability. This requires expanding the rest of Gateway and using more reusable vehicles to and from the lunar surface. Although Lockheed's lander concept may develop rapidly, it is only partially reusable because when it is no longer needed, the vehicle's lander portion will remain on the moon.
NASA has yet to decide which companies will build the first human lunar lander, and the agency still needs to budget for this accelerated lunar return plan, which should be announced next week. Lockheed acknowledges that if it chooses the company, it must work quickly to achieve its 2024 target. But if they don't have enough money, it won't work.