Lockheed Martin’s CEV is a winged lifting body

by Chris Bergin

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.

The vehicle is centre-piece to NASA’s main goal in President Bush’s Vision for Space Exploration – with a man-rated implementation now set to be brought forward following comments from new NASA administrator Mike Griffin.
As soon as Griffin took office the aim for his term at the helm of the agency was made crystal clear in regards to the timescale for the CEV to be put into service – following the retirement of the Space Shuttle Fleet. A gap of 2010 to 2014 was simply not viable, according to Griffin.
Lockheed Martin have stated they will be aiming to test a full scale un-manned Technology Demonstrator version of their CEV in 2008 – with the aim of winning the full contract to go ahead and build the man-rated version of the vehicle.
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. 

“Basically what we came down on was the side of safety for the crew in making our decision to go with a lifting body,” 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 – the lifting body approach helps to minimize the g-forces on crew members.”

One feature of the company’s CEV design — along with the firm’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 you’re developing this first go-round is going to be lunar capable,” he added.

“We’re attempting to the best extent possible to build in modularity into our systems and maintainability and ease of operations…so as new technologies and new capabilities are developed over the next 10 to 15 to 20 years, we’ll be able to take advantage of those without having to totally redesign a new vehicle.”

Six Images: http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/photos/photo-thumbnails.asp?albumid=4

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