Lockheed Martin has unveiled at the International Astronautical Congress in Australia a new concept that seeks to bring astronauts to Mars in about 10 years.
The Mars Base Camp concept involves a mission architecture that focuses on an orbital outpost designed to help astronauts carry out scientific studies and explore the red planet, Lockheed said Thursday.
Lockheed's concept is composed of the Orion crew capsule, Space Launch System, deep space habitats and solar electric propulsion systems and aims to initially launch an orbiting mission to Mars followed by the launch of a single-stage, reusable lander called the Mars Ascent Descent Vehicle.
MADV is designed to allow up to four astronauts to descend to the planet's surface to perform a two-week surface mission before returning to the orbiting base camp to refuel in preparation for another mission.
“Partnered with NASA, our vision leverages hardware currently in development and production,“ said Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of commercial civil space at Lockheed.
“We’re proud to have Orion powered-on and completing testing in preparation for its Exploration Mission-1 flight and eventually its journey to Mars,“ she added.
Lockheed said Mars Base Camp supports NASA's Deep Space Gateway program that seeks to build and test the Orion space vehicle and other platforms in cislunar space prior to sending those systems to Mars.
The concept's launch came two months after Lockheed started development work on a deep space habitat prototype for NASA designed to provide navigation support and ensure safety of astronauts during long-duration missions.