In the first week of March, Lockheed Martin demonstrated the most powerful laser weapon of its kind, named ATHENA. And now, the company has followed it up with their brand new design for NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services 2 (CRS-2) program. Envisaged as cargo ships of space, the CRS-2 will be used for high priority missions like supplying the International Space Station (ISS), along with future endeavors like expeditions to Mars. To that end, this collaborative effort from Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia (from Italy) and MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates (from Canada) entails – a cargo container called Exoliner, an orbital vehicle named Jupiter, and a special robotic arm for this Jupiter module.
Coming to details, the Jupiter is envisaged as a reusable space-servicing vehicle based upon the core design of MAVEN (which is now orbiting Mars). In essence, the craft will be ‘parked’ in the orbit, and will act as a payload-transferring vehicle that will aid the cargo containers sent skywards from the station or any planet’s surface. And, it should be duly noted that while the Jupiter is envisioned as a reusable mechanism, it will only make ‘non-Earth returning’ trips to its destination.
As for Exoliner, the disposable vessel is designed with a cargo-carrier component with a capacity to carry over 14,000 lbs (6,500 kg) of cargo – and the scope is based upon the architecture of OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return probe (which is also under construction). This advanced ambit is influenced by Thales Alenia’s cargo container utilized for the Automated Transfer Vehicle. And lastly, as for the Jupiter robotic arm, its design is based on a feasible technology used for ISS and Space Shuttle for 30 years.
Lastly, concerning the usage pattern, both the Jupiter and Exoliner could be launched together when attached to an Atlas V rocket. The above image (also check the lowest image) aptly demonstrates the pair’s mission phases oriented towards resupplying ISS, with the last stage signifying the disposal of the Exoliner along with the Atlas launcher. But interestingly, beyond just the scope of ISS, Lockheed engineers are looking forth to a more expansive functional avenue for the CRS-2 program. This can include the hauling of supplies (like food, fuel and equipment) for deep space missions, or even the use of the systems as a collective habitable module for expeditionary missions to Mars. According to Jim Crocker, vice president and general manager of Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ International line of business –
Our top priority is safe, reliable and affordable delivery of cargo to the ISS. At the same time, as NASA continues on the journey to Mars, we’re excited by the possibilities CRS-2 can offer to accelerate that goal.