Defense giant Lockheed Martin has unveiled plans to build a massive lunar lander that could accommodate a crew of 4 for up to two weeks. The lander has been proposed to work directly with NASA’s Lunar Gateway offering reusable and affordable access to the surface of the moon.
The next-generation lunar lander was announced yesterday at the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany. The massive lander would have a wet mass of 62 metric tons and a dry mass of 22 metric tons. As a result, the only vehicles currently being developed capable of launching a payload of that size are the SpaceX BFR and NASA’s SLS. Officials did not reveal which vehicle the company is looking at to launch the lander. However, in a white paper study published on the company’s website, the authors reference utilising the SLS to, “transport items of extremely high value, including crew members and expensive integrated systems.”
In addition to its ambitious capabilities of supporting a crew of four for up to two weeks, officials revealed that the lander will be fully reusable.
“Because this lander doesn’t have to endure the punishment of re-entering Earth’s atmosphere, it can be re-flown many times over without needing significant and costly refurbishment,” said Tim Cichan, Space Exploration Architect at Lockheed Martin Space. “That’s a major advantage of the Gateway and of a modular, flexible, reusable approach to deep space exploration.”
While no development timelines were shared during the announcement, officials noted that by utilising systems developed for the Orion spacecraft, the lander’s cost and development time could be reduced drastically. Orion systems that the lander will likely take advantage of include avionics, life support, communications and navigation systems.
Lockheed Martin’s lunar lander concept is extremely ambitious bordering on science fiction. However, the technology needed to make it a reality has either already been developed or is currently under development. The success of the lander may, as a result, simply come down to adequate funding and patience.