Lockheed and NASA set sights, budget on Mars and beyond

NASA and Lockheed Martin may be able to overcome gravity, but can they overcome federal budget limitations to put a manned crew into deep space and return it safely to Earth within the next few decades?

 Lockheed Martin Corp. will continue to attempt to boldly go where no man – or company – has gone before, into deep space on board the Orion spacecraft. And do it within budget.

NASA has designated the Orion as the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) and announced May 24 that Lockheed Martin will continue to work closely with the space agency to achieve initial crewed operations by 2016.

The Orion/MPCV spacecraft was designed to serve as the nation’s next-generation spacecraft to take humans far beyond low Earth orbit to multiple destinations throughout our solar system.

Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin will continue working to develop the MPCV, NASA said. The spacecraft will carry four astronauts for 21-day missions and be able to land in the Pacific Ocean off  the California coast. It is designed to be 10 times safer during ascent and entry than its predecessor, the space shuttle, the space agency said.

A pressure test on the Orion/MPCV crew module was successful completed recently at Lockheed Martin’s Waterton facility in Denver.

NASA’s designation of the Orion crew exploration vehicle will be a sound solution for deep space mission capability within the currently proposed budgets, a Lockheed statement said.

“This path forward will soon enable humans to venture out into the cosmos to explore and study interplanetary destinations never before seen or touched by mankind,” the statement added.

Lockheed said its government-industry teaming is working on affordability initiatives to streamline infrastructure requirements, reduce risk and optimize government-furnished equipment development.

Lockheed Martin Corp., of Bethesda, Md., ranks No. 1 on Washington Technology’s 2010 Top 100 list of the largest federal government contractors.