The multi-purpose module of the Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module at the Kennedy Space Center
Despite the fact that NASA encountered a number of financial problems, and a visit to Mars by a man in a previously set time under a big question, the development of the space program continues. The work is carried out not only by NASA, but also by private companies, such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, SpaceX. Lockheed Martin recently announced plans to build a full-size prototype of the inhabited module for deep space. For this purpose, a cargo container will be used, which in the era of the Shuttle was used to deliver cargo to the ISS.
The habitable module will be built at the Kennedy Space Center. The prototype will not just be a demonstration mock-up. By creating it, scientists are going to use the latest developments in the aerospace industry. Particular attention will be paid to life support systems – in fact, in deep space, the safety of the team is at the forefront.
The project will be implemented for the money of NASA (yes, the agency has financial problems, but they mainly concern the flight plans for Mars). NASA has already concluded a contract with Lockheed Martin on the construction of the module, referred to above. The project is divided into several stages, where each subsequent phase occurs after the completion of the previous one. For example, during the first stage, scientists and engineers will develop a preliminary design of the capsule and consider which systems are needed first.
During the second stage, the project will once again be analyzed and, perhaps, something will be changed in the design. In addition, scientists are going to make a list of key requirements for Deep Space Gateway. In order to test the viability of their ideas, scientists will test the assembled capsule first at the Kennedy Space Center, and then at the Johnson Space Center.
"It's pretty simple to be confident in your affairs if you live on Earth. But the recently recruited team of astronauts at the station will face unique challenges, "said Bill Pratt, a spokesman for the project from Lockheed Martin. "Something as simple as calling home can become unattainable when you are out of the Earth's low orbit. Creating this module, we will use various ideas, while remembering the road to Mars. "
Spaceship Orion. Render: NASA
As mentioned above, the new module will be built on the already used Donatello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM). This module is one of three that was used to deliver cargo to the ISS. It is worth noting that the testers are going to work not only in the ordinary reality, depending on which systems they show themselves. The virtual environment will also be actively used, including VR and augmented reality. So far, the specialists have only a series of thoughts on how this can be used, but after a while the ideas will be framed in a clear plan.
"We are pleased to work with NASA using one of the elements of the history of the cosmos, which was originally prepared for operation in the low Earth orbit, and now will play an important role in the exploration of deep space," one of the project participants said. According to the representatives of Lockheed Martin, they plan to use the existing capabilities of the module to the maximum, in order to reduce the project implementation time.
NASA expects that the whole work will take a bit more than a year – we mean the stage that follows the first phase. In the second, scientists and engineers will actively use both virtual and augmented reality.
In many respects the success of the space station Deep Space Gateway will depend on the ship Orion, its functions and capabilities. The thing is that the reusable Orion spacecraft is planned to be operated together with the station. Accordingly, most of the ship's functions, especially those related to the life support of the station's command, are planned to be used in full. The station team will arrive on Orion, and after serving time for research, return to Earth.
"Since the Deep Space Gateway will be uninhabited for several months in a year, the station must be strong, reliable and autonomous when needed. Actually, it will be a robotic system that can serve people when they arrive, "said Lockheed Martin spokesman. The station itself will be built in the lunar orbit. The station will be used as a gateway for astronauts who are sent to the Moon and to Mars.
The station will have its own power source, residential module, docking module, airlock, logistics module. As for the power plant, it will work on electric traction in order to keep the lunar station at the required point of space.
Start the direct work on creating the station and bring it to the Moon's orbit will be possible only after the launch vehicle is ready SLS. After the station is ready, NASA will begin the creation of the space ship Deep Space Transport (DST), specially designed for long-range space missions, including to Mars.