NASA has received Lockheed Martin’s design proposal for the replacement of the Space Shuttle Fleet – the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The CEV will be capable of Low Earth Orbit (LEO), as well as transportation to the Moon and Mars.
While Shuttle bashers on various internet message boards continue to ridicule the notion that winged/lifting body vehicles have no need for the wings – a correct point in reference to the operation of a vehicle in space – Lockheed Martin explained their reasoning for continuing along the lines of a space plane.
â€œBasically what we came down on was the side of safety for the crew in making our decision to go with a lifting body,â€ said Patrick McKenzie, CEV Business Development Manager at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company to Space.com.
“For one, that approach allows more cross-range manoeuvrability, thus the craft can touchdown on land versus water. Secondly, a lifting body can lessen the g-loads on returning crews from long-duration space stints.
“Whether they are lengthy stays in Earth orbit, a prolonged mission on the Moon, or the round-trip trauma on the human body from a Mars mission â€“ the lifting body approach helps to minimize the g-forces on crew members.”
One feature of the companyâ€™s CEV design — along with the firmâ€™s teammates — is use of a titanium shell, along with two layers of thermal protection materials.
McKenzie noted the progressional elements of the creation and testing of their CEV as a staged affair, with capabilities starting with servicing the International Space Station (ISS), then upgrading to support NASA’s return to the Moon – followed by the mission to Mars.
“it makes sense to make sure that the vehicle that youâ€™re developing this first go-round is going to be lunar capable,â€ he added.
â€œWeâ€™re attempting to the best extent possible to build in modularity into our systems and maintainability and ease of operationsâ€¦so as new technologies and new capabilities are developed over the next 10 to 15 to 20 years, weâ€™ll be able to take advantage of those without having to totally redesign a new vehicle.”