Former NASA Astronaut Frank Culbertson Proposes Four-Person
Crew-Tended Lunar-Orbit Habitat to Be in Place by 2020
Company s Flight-Proven Cygnus Spacecraft Could be Used as a
Building-Block Habitat Leading to Lunar Research and Mars Exploration
DULLES, Va.May 18, 2016--
Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense
technologies, today advocated for a manned lunar-orbit outpost as
America s next step in human space exploration.
Artist rendering of Orbital ATK s initial lunar outpost, as it would appear with NASA s Orion spacecraft in 2021 (credit: Orbital ATK).
During testimony this afternoon to the House of Representatives
Subcommittee on Space, Frank Culbertson, President of the company s
Space Systems Group, said, A lunar-orbit habitat will extend America s
leadership in space to the cislunar domain. A robust program to build,
launch and operate this initial outpost would be built on NASA s and our
international partners experience gained in long-duration human space
flight on the International Space Station and would make use of the
agency s new Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion deep-space
Orbital ATK was recently selected by NASA to study an initial version of
a cislunar habitat that could evolve over time to a much larger research
platform with many of the capabilities required for a human mission to
Mars. These studies fall under NASA s Next Space Technologies for
Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) program, a public-private
partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep-space
exploration capabilities to support more extensive human space flight
missions in the proving ground of cislunar space, the region from
Earth orbit that extends beyond the moon.
During his testimony, Mr. Culbertson emphasized that Orbital ATK s
Cygnus spacecraft is a strong candidate to be used as a habitat building
block for the cislunar outpost and eventually to help achieve NASA s
goal of human exploration of Mars.
The experience gained in the cislunar proving ground will lead directly
to longer mission durations in deep space and eventually enable a manned
mission to Mars, Culbertson said. But, in order to increase stay times
in cislunar space and accommodate a range of technology demonstrations
and scientific experiments, additional habitation space and consumables
are necessary. A very good starting point for the design of a cislunar
habitat is our flexible, human-rated Cygnus spacecraft which
incorporates the knowledge gained from delivering cargo to the ISS.
The initial habitat concept includes pre-positioning a Cygnus-derived
module in lunar orbit using a commercial launch vehicle in 2020, to be
ready for a first visit by astronauts on the inaugural crewed flight of
NASA s Orion spacecraft in 2021. Additional habitat and research modules
would expand the outpost following delivery by Orion/SLS and other
launch systems in the 2022-2025 period.
This concept would serve a dual purpose: to establish the first elements
of cislunar infrastructure to enable expanded exploration of the Moon in
the 2020s, and to also provide a platform for technology research and
demonstration needed to enable human flights to Mars in the 2030s. NASA,
the European Space Agency and other international partners also could
use the evolving outpost as a staging base and safe haven for lunar
landing expeditions and robotic surface operations.
Since many aspects of operations in deep space are as yet untested,
confidence must be developed through repeated flights to, and relatively
long-duration missions in, cislunar space, Culbertson said. Orbital
ATK continues to operate our Cygnus cargo logistics vehicle as a
flagship product, so we are ready to quickly and affordably implement an
initial Cygnus-derived habitat in cislunar space within three years of a
Orbital ATK has already expanded the capabilities of Cygnus beyond its
core cargo delivery function. The spacecraft is serving as a research
platform capable of hosting technology risk-reduction demonstrations to
enable deep-space exploration as part of existing cargo delivery
missions to the ISS. The first technology demonstration, Spacecraft Fire
Experiment-1 (SAFFIRE-1) designed by NASA s Glenn Research Center, is
currently in-orbit aboard the OA-6 Cygnus. Following Cygnus departure
from the ISS next month, the largest man-made fire ever in space will be
ignited in the Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module, which will enable NASA
to investigate fire detection, advanced fire extinguishing methods, and
post-fire clean up in a space environment.
About Orbital ATK
Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies.
The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation
systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and
merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related
propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense
electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition;
satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced
aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK
employs approximately 12,000 people in 18 states across the U.S. and in
several international locations. For more information, visit www.orbitalatk.com.
Source: Orbital ATK
Orbital ATK Space Systems Group
Barron Beneski, 703-406-5528
and Investor Relations