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Lockheed Martin Wants to Use Orion For More Than Just Deep Space Missions

The current exercise is to gauge commercial interest in sending payloads into space.

Vishal Mathur |

Updated:October 8, 2018, 9:17 AM IST
Lockheed Martin Wants to Use Orion For More Than Just Deep Space Missions
An artist rendering of the Lockheed Martin Orion spaceship (Image: Lockheed Martin)
Aerospace company Lockheed Martin is building the Orion module for NASA’s deep space missions but is also exploring if it may be possible that the module could carry more than the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s human crew and payloads. The company is now taking stock of how interested organizations might be in sending their payloads into space on the upcoming missions.

There are three missions lined up for the Orion, at the moment. The first is the EM-1, which will fly un-crewed out beyond the Moon, around 280,000 miles from Earth, before returning. The first crewed mission will be the EM-2, will then take humans out beyond the Moon, farther than ever before. This is the misson that is most likely to carry commercial payloads, if everything goes according to plan. The expected duration of this journey will be 21 days. Then, the EM-3 mission will start the early build-up, to what is being called the Gateway at the Moon.

Lockheed Martin says that the ideas can involve smaller payloads which can be transported within the Orion’s cabin, or larger payloads that will need to be protectively mounted on the module’s exterior. There are no specific limitations mentioned, either in terms of size or dimensions of the potential payloads.

"Access to the Moon and deep space for commercial entities opens up new worlds for all of us. It advances science, powers innovation, and inspires a new generation of engineers. We've seen that model work on the International Space Station in low-Earth orbit, and now, working with NanoRacks, we're applying that same successful model to deep space," says Mike Hawes, Orion program manager and vice president of Human Space Exploration, Commercial Civil Space at Lockheed Martin Space, in an official statement.

Lockheed Martin is working with NanoRacks, a company that offers commercial access to the International Space Station (ISS), with services including safety, launch manifesting, payload integration, logistics and astronaut crew operations. NanoRacks has brought more than 700 payloads to the space station till now. The idea is to see whether domestic and international organizations are at all interested in sending payloads into space, depending what application they see it fit for.
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