NASA has selected six US firms, which are Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems and NanoRacks, to help develop prototypes and concepts of deep space habitats for manned missions to Mars.
''Habitation systems provide a safe place for humans to live as we move beyond Earth on our journey to Mars,'' NASA said. “The next human exploration capabilities needed beyond the Space Launch System (SLS) Rocket and Orion Capsule are deep space, long duration habitation and in-space propulsion,” said Jason Crusan, Director of NASA’s Advanced Exploration Systems.
The six partners will have up to about 24 months to develop ground prototypes and conduct concept studies for deep space habitats. The ground prototypes will be used for three primary purposes: supporting integrated systems testing, human factors and operations testing, and to help define overall system functionality. These are important activities as they help define the design standards, common interfaces, and requirements while reducing risks for the final flight systems that will come after this phase.
These missions will demonstrate human, robotic and spacecraft operations in a true deep space environment that is still relatively close to Earth and validate technologies for the longer journey to Mars.