Orbital ATK is a privately-owned aerospace manufacturer that contracts works for NASA. The company’s plans for the next five years would be to build an outpost on the orbit of the Moon. This would help NASA to complete its Orion module.
The Orion mission twill take place in the cislunar space, which is, in fact, the area close to the Moon. This is supposed to set the path for a more ambitious mission – a journey to Mars. The objective declared by NASA is to start the trip to Mars in the 2030s.
As NASA’s Orion mission is programmed for 2021, the company said that their part of the mission will be already completed by then.
The habitat in itself should foster four astronauts, and the spacecraft has been named Cygnus.
“The experience gained in the cislunar proving ground will lead directly to longer mission durations in deep space and eventually enable a manned mission to Mars,” said Frank Culbertson, the president of the Orbital ATK company
As the enterprise has already designed a spacecraft, the chances are that NASA would agree to take them up for the challenge and sign the contract for this 2021 mission. But this is not official yet, and the agency could change plans as to what contractor it will finally use.
However, Orbital ATK has substantial advantages in this not-so-numerous field of companies that build spacecraft. They have been working close with NASA on aligning their objectives. The president of the company is highly optimistic about the results of this project.
The habitat on the lunar orbit is thought to be one of the missions that would extend the leadership of America in space. Reaching the cislunar domain is just the link that will help NASA go further in space and possibly send the first humans to Planet Mars.
In order to succeed in this extraordinary project, Culbertson said he would use the experience of working together with NASA and the knowledge gained from partners from all countries involved in the International Space Station.
Up until now, the most important technological devices designed to support this cislunar mission are the new launching system (SLS) and the transportation system for deep space created especially for the Orion project.
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