Creating Building Blocks of Lunar Infrastructure
Lockheed Martin Supports NASA Space Exploration with JOINS Award
In a July 25 announcement, NASA selected 11 U.S. companies to develop technologies that will support long-term exploration on the Moon and in space under its sixth Tipping Point opportunity. As a recipient of a $9.1 million contract from this Tipping Point solicitation, Lockheed Martin is slated to complete an in-space joining experiment at the International Space Station (ISS) as part of its JOINS, or JOining demonstrations IN-Space, project.
What is In-Space Joining?
Essentially, in-space joining, or ISJ, is a critical technology needed to enable in-space assembly, consisting of delivering elements to space and then robotically assembling and integrating them into much larger products and systems. JOINS includes delivering an ISJ module payload to the ISS, integrating the payload within the Bishop Airlock, exposing the payload to the space environment while conducting joining demonstrations, and returning test articles to Earth for further study and analysis.
“As we look to build an infrastructure at the Moon, Mars and beyond, we see in-space joining demonstrations as critical to establishing necessary capabilities for future missions,” said Robert Biggs, JOINS Program Manager at Lockheed Martin. “Our ultimate goal with JOINS is to verify joining integrity for future space applications such as lunar surface infrastructure, orbital persistent platforms, and several space-system elements including antennas, solar arrays, sunshades, optical systems and radiators that will be essential to building out the lunar economy.”
Why Conduct These Demonstrations?
The potential benefits provided by in-space assembly and joining for future orbital and surface infrastructure applications include reduced mass and development cost, shortened schedules and lower technical risks relative to large deployable systems. In a challenging environment such as space, it also maximizes payload packaging efficiency and eliminates or minimizes the need for launching large complex, costly mechanisms.
Right now, the focus is on advancing the maturity and reliability of joining and inspection methods for in-space assembled architectures. Eventually, this technology could enable the assembly and integration of space infrastructure using materials and components made with future in-situ resource utilization (ISRU) and in-space manufacturing capabilities.