Lockheed Martin has revealed a conceptual lunar lander spacecraft that could be reusable, align with NASA’s lunar gateway and possibly be used in future Mars missions.

The concept spacecraft is a single-stage, crewed lander that uses flight-proven technologies and systems from NASA’s Orion spacecraft, the company said. The lander would accommodate a crew of four and 2,000 lb of cargo payload on the surface for up to two weeks without refueling, before needing to return to the gateway.

The lunar gateway would provide global lunar access for the concept lander, which has the ability to visit multiple sites and would support international and commercial missions, as well as NASA’s sustainable exploration of the Moon. After a mission, the lander would return to the lunar gateway to be refueled and serviced, and then is kept in orbit until the next surface mission.

"The gateway is key to full, frequent and fast reusability of this lander," said Tim Cichan, space exploration architect at Lockheed Martin Space. "Because this lander doesn't have to endure the punishment of re-entering Earth's atmosphere, it can be re-flown many times over without needing significant and costly refurbishment. That's a major advantage of the gateway and of a modular, flexible, reusable approach to deep space exploration."

Lockheed Martin said the technology investments made for the Orion spacecraft can be reused and reduces the cost, complexity and development timeline of the lander. The flight-proven systems used in the design include avionics, life support, communications and navigation systems, as well as a lightweight version of its crew module pressure vessel.

Using reusable landers is important for sustainable exploration of the moon, Lockheed Martin said. Additionally, these lunar missions and the development of an orbiting lunar outpost are important steps toward sending humans to Mars. The company said the lessons learned from the moon landings will apply to Mars, even though the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere. These would include operations experience in a challenging environment, operating and refueling out of orbit, long-duration cryogenic propulsion and terminal descent navigation, guidance and control.

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