Technology

Lockheed Martin has created a full-size prototype of the residential module of the near-moon station Gateway

American company Lockheed Martin has completedthe creation of a full-sized prototype of a lunar orbital dwelling module, which can form the basis for the design and testing of the lunar orbital station NASA Gateway. The construction of a full-fledged prototype of the Lockheed Martin module was promised back in 2017 as part of a joint project of NextSTEP (Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships), which the company is conducting with an aerospace agency. The module is planned to be tested for viability, as well as used to develop new key technologies that will be required for human survival in the near-moon space.

Space stations in one form or anotherhumanity learned to create in the 70s, but all of them were used only in near-earth orbit. But it is quite another thing - to build a station near the moon, than NASA itself is planned to do in the near future with the support of other space agencies and private companies. Gateway should be the bridgehead of humanity in deep space. And the start of its construction is scheduled for the early 2020s.

The company Lockheed Martin took to build one ofresidential modules of the future lunar orbital station. The basis for its creation was taken Donatello multipurpose logistics module from the program of space shuttles, which was used mainly for cargo delivery to the ISS.

For 18 months from the beginning of the construction programThe module, called Habitat Ground Test Article (HGTA), has undergone a significant upgrade. To speed up and simplify the design and prototyping of the residential version of the near-moon module, the company used a variety of advanced technologies, ranging from virtual and augmented reality to 3D printing technologies. In addition, the development was actively used experience and technologies that were obtained during the assembly of other spacecraft - OSIRIS-Rex (automatic station for the study of asteroid Bennu) and InSight (landing module for the study of Mars).

As pointed out in Lockheed, HTGTA wasmodernized so that you can make the most of the entire amount of the initial space of the Donatello module. Thus, the resulting prototype also turned out to be multifunctional: it can be used both for scientific missions and research, and as a residential module for the crew.

Currently the HTGTA module is inSpace Center them. Kennedy in Florida, where NASA's NextSTEP project team is going to conduct an assessment. On March 25, an experiment will begin in which a group of agency astronauts will live and work inside the module. The project is aimed not only at checking the convenience of its operation, during the experiment the improvised crew will test the new docking system, which is planned to be used at the Gateway station. After the experiment is completed, the module is scheduled to be returned to Lockheed Martin for optimization.

"In the design and immediate assemblyof this high-class prototype, we were guided by the variety of potential missions in which it can be used. From the very beginning, our module’s configuration supports both near-moon orbital and ground science missions, as well as commercial operations - all in order to quickly pave the way to the moon, ”commented Bill Pratt, NextSTEP program manager at Lockheed Martin Space.

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