Lockheed Martin Reveals Human Lunar Lander Concept

Lockheed Martin revealed its concept for a crewed lunar lander during the International Astronautical Congress (IAC) in Bremen, Germany, showcasing how the reusable lander would align with NASA’s lunar Gateway and future Mars missions.

The crewed lunar lander is currently conceptualized as a single stage, fully reusable system that incorporates flight-proven technologies and systems from NASA’s Orion spacecraft. In its initial configuration, the lander would accommodate a crew of four with 2,000 lbs. of cargo for up to two weeks before returning to the Gateway without refueling on the surface.

“NASA asked industry for innovative and new approaches to advance America’s goal of returning humans to the moon, and establishing a sustainable, enduring presence there,” says Lisa Callahan, vice president and general manager of commercial civil space at Lockheed Martin Space. “This is a concept that takes full advantage of both the Gateway and existing technologies to create a versatile, powerful lander that can be built quickly and affordably. This lander could be used to establish a surface base, deliver scientific or commercial cargo, and conduct extraordinary exploration of the Moon.”

Lockheed says the lunar Gateway will provide global lunar access for a lander and that having the ability to visit multiple sites with a reusable lander supports many international, commercial and scientific communities, in addition to NASA’s sustainable exploration of the Moon. After a surface mission, the craft would return to the Gateway, where it can be refueled, serviced and then kept in orbit until the next surface sortie mission, according to Lockheed.

“The Gateway is key to full, frequent and fast reusability of this lander,” says Tim Cichan, a space exploration architect at Lockheed Martin Space who presented the lander concept at IAC. “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.”

According to Lockheed, investments made in technology developed for Orion can be reused to reduce the cost, complexity and development timeline. The company also emphasized that some of the human-rated, flight-proven systems used in the design include avionics, life support, communications and navigation systems, and a light-weight version of its crew module pressure vessel.

Reusable landers are enabled by the lunar Gateway and are important for sustainable exploration. Additionally, Lockheed emphasizes that landed human lunar missions and a lunar orbiting outpost are valuable to prepare for sending humans to Mars. While the Moon doesn’t have an atmosphere, there are still many lessons that apply to a future crewed Mars lander, such as operations experience in a challenging and dynamic environment, operating and refueling out of orbit, long-duration cryogenic propulsion, and terminal descent navigation, guidance and control.

Lockheed has released associated information online: Lander animation, Lander illustrations and Lander white paper.