Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Lockheed Martin's Reusable Extraterrestrial Landing Vehicle Concept for the Moon and Mars

Notional MADV on the surface of Mars (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
by Marcel F. Williams

 At the 68th International Astronautical Congress, held in Australia last September, Lockheed Martin  unveiled a remarkable new extraterrestrial spacecraft concept.  The single staged space vehicle would be capable of landing either  unmanned or crewed on the surfaces of the Moon or Mars. The MADV (Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle) would be a propellant depot dependent spacecraft fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. And the MADV would be capable of transporting four member crews to the surfaces of the Moon or Mars. 

MADV (Mars Ascent/Descent Vehicle)

Propellant: 80 tonnes of LOX/LH2 

Inert weight: 30 tonnes 

Engines: 6 RL-10 engines

Maximum delta v capability:  6.0 km/s

Crew: Up to four astronauts

Notional MADV on the polar surface of the Moon (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
After landing on the lunar or martian surface, crews would utilize an electric powered lift located on the vehicle's leeward side to access the surface from the pressurized crew cabin.  Located between its six RL-10 engines, near the bottom of the vehicle, a retractable equipment lift would be lowered to deploy mobile vehicles and other equipment for use on the surface.

However, the MADV's  high delta-v capability (6 km/s)  could also allow the spacecraft to be used as a crew transport  within cis-lunar space. Utilizing pre-deployed propellant manufacturing water depots at LEO and EML1, the MADV could easily transport crews between LEO to EML1-- even with the addition of a  crew hab (10 to 20 tonnes in mass)  with  protective shielding against heavy ions. 

Notional MADV on top of an SLS Block IB (Credit: Lockheed Martin)
 MADV Capabilities

1. Unmanned lunar lander for deploying mobile robotic vehicles and unmanned sample returns

2. A crewed lunar lander capable of traveling to the lunar surface and back to the propellant depots and Deep Space Habitats located at EML1-- on a single tank of fuel

3. Unmanned Mars lander for deploying mobile robotic vehicles for unmanned sample returns from the martian surface.

4. A crewed Mars lander capable of traveling from low Mars orbit to the martian surface and back to low Mars orbit-- on a single tank of fuel.

5. If fueled from a depot in high Mars orbit, it could land directly on the martian surface for Mars outpost operations.

6. If refueled from a depot near an outpost on the martian surface, the MADV could transport its crew all the way to a permanent habitat stationed in high Mars orbit.

7. A crewed orbital transfer vehicle capable of transporting astronauts from propellant depots located at  LEO to propellant depots located at any of the Earth-Moon Lagrange points or in  low lunar orbit.

8. The SLS Block IB could be utilized to transport the MADV to LEO with enough fuel to deploy  itself anywhere within cis-lunar space (EML1, EML2, EML4, EML5, Low Lunar Orbit).

9. An SLS launched  MADV could also arrive at LEO with  enough propellant to transport itself all the way to propellant manufacturing water depots located in high Mars orbit.

Notional landing and take-off of the MADV to and from the surface of Mars (Credit: Lockheed Martin)

Maximum Delta-V Budget for the MADV (6.0 km/s)

Cis-Lunar Space Delta-V

LEO to EML1 (~2 days) - 4.41 km/s

LEO to EML1 (~4 days) - 3.77 km/s 

EML1 to or from LLO - (~2 days) - 0.75 km/s

EML1 to or from LLO - (~3 days) - 0.64 km/s

LEO to  LLO (~2 days) - 4.5 km/s

LEO to LLO (4 days) - 3.97 km/s

LLO to or from the Lunar surface - 1.87 to 2.2 km/s

Mars Delta-V

LMO (500 km circular orbit) EDL to Martian surface - 1.27 km/s

Mars surface to LMO (500 km circular orbit)  - 4.2 km/s

HMO to or from  LMO - 1.4 km/s

HMO to Martian surface via 500 km circular orbit - 2.67 km/s

Mars surface to HMO - 5.6 km/s

LEO to HMO - 5.2 km/s

LEO- Low Earth Orbit, EML1 - Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1, LLO- Low Lunar Orbit, HMO - High Mars Orbit, LMO - Low Mars Orbit, EDL - Entry, Descent, and Landing


The development and deployment of the MADV still wouldn't negate the need for large unmanned cargo landing vehicles for the Moon and Mars. Such landing craft would be needed to deploy large and heavy habitats, vehicles and other large structures  to the surfaces of the Moon and Mars and, eventually, to other worlds within the solar system.

But  a single stage extraterrestrial landing vehicle such as the MADV should be faster and cheaper to develop than previous two stage crew concepts for the Moon and Mars. So Lockheed Martin's  MADV could be a game changer as a reusable extraterrestrial vehicle capable of using a propellant depot architecture within cis-lunar space and beyond.  And with its high delta-v capability, the MADV could also be the landing vehicle of choice for conveniently transporting humans to the surfaces of the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Callisto, and possibly even Saturn's moon,  Titan, during the rest of the  21st century.   

Links and References

Mars Base Updates and New Concepts

Lockheed Martin Mars Lander Ship Concept (Video)

 Lockheed Martin Adds Lander to Mars Base Concept

On Orbit Refueling: Supporting a Robust Cislunar Space Economy

Mars Base Camp (Video)

Blog Archive