NASA has selected six US companies 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 selected companies are Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK, Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems and NanoRacks. The six partners will have up to about 24 months to develop ground prototypes and conduct concept studies for deep space habitats.
NASA has estimated that the combined total of all the awards, covering work in 2016 and 2017, will be about USD 65 million. Selected partners are required to contribute at least 30 % of the cost of the overall proposed effort.
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 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.
The activities of these awards will inform the acquisition and deployment approach for the next phase of flight systems for deep space including important aspects, such as standards and interfaces, module configurations, and options for deployment.