NASA and Lockheed Martin to build simulated interplanetary spaceship, on the ground

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Yawn. NASA and Lockheed Martin have partnered to re-purpose a leftover shuttle cargo module into a ground-based simulated interplanetary spaceship.

Lockheed Martin announced it will refurbish the Donatello multi-purpose logistics module (MLPM), transforming from it from its original, unrealized role as a supply conveyor for the International Space Station to a test and training model of a living area for astronauts working beyond Earth orbit. The work is being done under a public-private partnership between the aerospace corporation and NASA. “We are excited to work with NASA to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware,” said Bill Pratt, Lockheed Martin’s program manager for the deep space habitat contract, in a statement.

…Over an 18-month period, Lockheed Martin will build upon its deep space habitat concept it developed during the first phase of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, or NextSTEP, program by using virtual and augmented reality prototyping in an effort to reduce costs and schedule, as well as identify and address issues while early in the design process. The results, to be shared with the space agency, will help to further understanding of the systems, standards and interfaces needed to make living in deep space possible.

This is nice, but it is essentially make-work for Lockheed Martin and a waste of money. At this stage of our engineering knowledge, we need to fly our interplanetary spaceship prototypes. Building them on the ground can only provide a limited amount of new knowledge, much of which has already been learned from numerous very similar past ground-based experiments.

For example, why isn’t NASA and Lockheed Martin also partnering with SpaceX, contracting to fly Donatello on the Falcon Heavy? That makes a lot more sense, and would not cost a lot of additional money. In fact, it might be quite cheap, since SpaceX needs customers willing to gamble on its new heavy-lift rocket.



  • LocalFluff

    I suggest that NASA stages a fake Moon landing!
    They obviously can’t do it for real again. But they could at least fake one. Especially with today’s Hollywood production technology. (Although faking it would be eight time as expensive as doing it for real, and kill seventeen participants in car accidents).

    FAKE is popular now.

  • ken anthony

    Yep. The only way the “can’t do” can justify their existence is to pretend they are accomplishing something.

  • eddie willers

    If they can invent anti-gravity boots, it will all be worth it.

  • wodun

    At this stage of our engineering knowledge, we need to fly our interplanetary spaceship prototypes.

    Yup. A COTS like approach to habitats, engines, life support, toilets, ect would be great.

    It would be nice to have stations or platforms other than the ISS (and also not controlled by NASA) up there to test different things.

  • Tom Billings

    The suggestion that flight testing should proceed takes us out of the profit center of R&D that Congress had muscled the aerospace industry into by the late 1980s. Flight testing not only requires the messy work of production, it lets in the possibility of failure that would embarrass the members of Congress who voted for the program.

    It is only to be engaged in when there are enough complaints of lack of performance in current systems that it cannot be avoided. Since there exist no present systems to compare these new systems to, then obviously flight testing is needless political risk for the patrons of NASA, and therefore is to be avoided.

  • Chris

    Is this going to be done at 80% of the cost with 0% of the results.

  • pzatchok

    So let me get this.
    NASA’s whole interplanetary system can be scaled down to fit into a large school bus?
    And they plan to get some kind of results out of this that 3D imaging and a set of 3d glasses couldn’t do?

    Its time for a privately owned space station.

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