Lockheed Martin unveils concepts for Mars ship and lander


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The boondoggle lobbying continues! Lockheed Martin today unveiled its concepts for a Mars interplanetary ship, built around its Orion capsule, as well as a fully reusable Mars lander.

The timing of this announcement fits perfectly with last week’s NASA announcement of its concepts for building a lunar space station, along with this week’s announcement to study doing it with the Russians. It also times perfectly with the announcement that the first public meeting of the National Space Council will take place on October 5. And tonight Elon Musk will give an update on his own proposals for getting to Mars.

All these public relations announcements suggest to me that the Trump administration is getting close to unveiling its own future space policy, and they all suggest that this policy will be to build a space station around the Moon. My guess is that Lockheed Martin and SpaceX are vying for a piece of that pie in their announcements today.

Let me also note that Lockheed Martin’s concept above illustrates nicely what a lie Orion is and has always been. They have been touting it for years as the vehicle that will get Americans to Mars, but now admit that it can only really be a small part of a much larger interplanetary ship, and will be there mostly to be the descent capsule when astronauts want to come home. They also admit in the video at the first link that their proposal for getting to Mars is only a concept. To build it would require many billions of dollars. I wonder will it cost as much as Orion and SLS ($43 billion plus) and take as long (18 years plus) to build? If so, it is a bad purchase. We can do this faster, and for less.

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6 comments

  • MDN

    Why would you ever expend the energy to send an Earth decent module back and forth to Mars? That is about the dumbest idea I have ever heard and should be an embarrassment to these supposed “Rocket Scientists.” And don’t give me an “It’s too expensive/inefficient to rendezvous in orbit” argument since that is by definition a stated purpose for the Lunar orbiting station.

  • Mark

    It might be more efficient to carry the decent module all the way there and back again.

    An interplanetary ship will be traveling between 35,000 and 42,000 mph coming from mars right before reentry to earth. That’s considerably more than orbital speed (~17,500 mph), making rendezvous impractical. You could try aerobraking the ship, which would be ideal since it offers potential re-usability, but such a craft would need structural modifications to withstand the additional stress loads and it would require a heat shield capable of operating in earth’s atmosphere. More mass.

    Conceivably you could launch a decent module on a highly elliptical orbit, one so designed that with some acceleration on the decent leg you could achieve rendezvous with the interplanetary ship. This is a bit of a high-risk maneuver, though. It would make that rendezvous a single point of failure, one that if missed would lead to the certain death of everyone onboard the ship. In this case it might be better to be safe than sorry.

  • pzatchok

    Lockheed and Boeing can’t use propulsive landing. NASA says its to unsafe and untested for SpaceX to try using it.

  • Edward

    Mark Wrote: “In this case it might be better to be safe than sorry.

    I agree. I think that it is similar to carrying lifeboats, because if rendezvous with a descent module or space station cannot be done for any number of reasons, the crew will still have a way back into Earth’s atmosphere.

  • pzatchok

    Why does one video show the Orion as being the main structural component to the station?
    All thrust stress being pushed through the Orion craft to the rest of the station. Can we say a bit over designed for just a re-entry vehicle.

    And the other video doesn’t show the Orion at all but instead a HUGE new Space X style lander.
    Again with all the thrust passing through the lander.

  • Edward

    pzatchok asked: “Why does one video show the Orion as being the main structural component to the station? All thrust stress being pushed through the Orion craft to the rest of the station. Can we say a bit over designed for just a re-entry vehicle.

    “The main” structural component may be overstating the design, and she only called it the command deck, but it looks like it is intended as a structural component. Since the thrust forces that are required to accelerate everything “above” the Orion go through the Orion capsule, it’s strength determines the limit on the engine thrust. It may not be designed for the purpose that it is being proposed to do. I have worried about such a situation for several years, that Orion would be chosen to perform a mission for which it is not well suited.

    And the other video doesn’t show the Orion at all but instead a HUGE new Space X style lander.

    It looks like the two are not mutually exclusive but are both part of the overall plan. The second video shows a Mars lander that docks with the first video’s Base Camp orbiter. Even the first video briefly shows the Mars lander.

    I suspect that Lockheed Martin is attempting to conform to NASA’s desire for a large interplanetary craft yet keep it small, so that it is affordable enough for Congress to fund. A Martian rendezvous with the lander may also reduce the complexity and cost of the interplanetary craft.

    I doubt that this proposal will be accepted as is, but it may influence other proposals into finding similarly inexpensive and achievable concepts. This is a mid-future (10-year) concept.

    Elon Musk announced SpaceX’s version of a near-future (5 to 10 years) aspirational goal of unmanned cargo missions to Mars followed two years later with manned missions.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4FY894HyF8#t=30m11s (11 minutes)

    As an aside, notice that at the end of his talk, Musk suggests using the rocket in the same way the US had proposed for a National Aero-Space Plane.

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