Making Access to Space Even Easier

Making Access to Space Even Easier
July 20, 2022

With each passing year, more and more entities are seeking access to space. Over time, the model for procuring spacecraft is shifting to something simple: catalogs.

In the not-so-distant future, any company looking for a spacecraft will be able to flip through a catalog and pick amongst a myriad of options to find one that’s ready quickly and fits their needs.

This may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but NASA’s been building this approach since the late 1990s, most recently with offerings for its Commercial Lunar Payload Services (CLPS) and Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV (Rapid IV) programs done in this “you pick it” style.

NASA says the goal of this option-rich structure is to “enable fast procurement of spacecraft and payload space for future missions.” It’s an agile approach designed to better keep pace with an increasingly dynamic space industry, enabling more indefinite delivery and indefinite quantity contracts than traditional means of procurement.

Lockheed Martin Spacecraft on the Menu

Recently, two of Lockheed Martin’s adaptable satellite buses – the LM2100 and LM400 bus families – were selected by NASA as formal additions to their Rapid IV spacecraft catalog for U.S. government customers.

Rapid IV contracts – good for a combined potential value of up to $6 billion – can support any NASA center or federal agency with a spacecraft mission need.  

“The potential use cases for these satellites are limitless,” said Adrián Cuadra, Lockheed Martin’s Weather & Earth Science programs director, whose market segment uses the satellite buses for their missions. “As we strive to better understand our ever-changing planet, these spacecraft could be used as observatories to host carbon-monitoring instruments, understand our shrinking ice sheets, predict sea level rise, and more – and we’re ready to support our NASA customer with any rapid needs they may have for future missions.”

NASA shares that, “The on-ramp feature used with these contracts also gives previously awarded vendors the opportunity to propose additional flight-proven spacecraft designs or update their existing catalog designs.” This built-in flexibility enables providers to continuously improve their offering to stay current with ever-advancing space technologies.

Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 platform is a flight-proven design supporting weather, communications, navigation and missile warning missions. The company’s small and versatile LM400 bus family is rooted in success with NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, and the family’s newest iteration is slated for its inaugural journey to space later this year, which will be foundational to solving a diverse set of customer needs.

Looking Toward Lunar Missions

Render of McCandless Lunar Lander on the surface of the Moon

In addition to the Rapid IV spacecraft bus program, NASA also offers a host of options for commercial companies looking to send payloads to the Moon.

The Lockheed Martin team applied its years of expertise building interplanetary spacecraft to ink a place for its McCandless Lunar Lander design in NASA’s Commercial Lunar Payload Services catalog.

The lander is capable of transporting large payloads to the lunar surface, including things like scientific instruments, deployable rovers, or even sample return vehicles.

To ensure a soft landing on the lunar surface, the lander uses an approach similar to NASA’s InSight Mars lander also built and flown by Lockheed Martin. This technique relies upon a series of on-board radars and rocket thrusters firing to slow the spacecraft’s speed just prior to a gentle touchdown.

Once on the lunar surface, the lander hosts a whole suite of power, communications and thermal management tools that can be customized to meet specific mission needs. It is named in honor of the late Bruce McCandless, a NASA astronaut and longtime Lockheed Martin employee who was a pioneer in space exploration.

As we continue to work to make space a place for all, more options made available at quicker speeds means even more potential for learning about ourselves and our universe. Lockheed Martin looks forward to coming along on that journey, wherever it takes us.