An Orbital ATK executive has said the company plans to use its Cygnus spacecraft as a basis for a manned habitat that would operate in cislunar space by 2020.
Orbital ATK said Wednesday Frank Culbertson, president of space systems group at Orbital ATK, told the House Science subcommittee on space that the initial habitat concept seeks to expand Moon exploration missions by the 2020s as well as support NASA's plan to perform human flight missions to Mars by 2030s.
“Since many aspects of operations in deep space are as yet untested, confidence must be developed through repeated flights to, and relatively long-duration missions in, cislunar space,“ Culbertson, a former NASA astronaut, told lawmakers in testimony.
“In order to increase stay times in cislunar space and accommodate a range of technology demonstrations and scientific experiments, additional habitation space and consumables are necessary,“ he added.
Culbertson added that the initial outpost in lunar orbit might expand over time through additional research modules and habitats by 2022 and would use NASA's Space Launch System and the Orion system designed for deep space missions.
Orbital ATK conducted a study on the initial cislunar habitat as part of NASA's Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships program.