Nasa gives green light for Lockheed Martin deep space module

Both 'virtual and augmented reality' will be used to build a full-size prototype for the space habitat

Nasa deep space habitat
(Image credit: Lockheed Martin)

American aerospace firm Lockheed Martin has been given the green light to build a full-size prototype of its deep space module concept for the Nasa NextStep programme, reports Engadget.

The company will build the deep space station by refurbishing an old container that was used by space shuttles to transfer cargo to the ISS, says the website. Designers will use "a mixture of virtual and augmented reality" to create the prototype.

Lockheed Martin's NextStep programme manager, Bill Pratt, said: "We are excited to work with Nasa to repurpose a historic piece of flight hardware, originally designed for low Earth orbit exploration, to play a role in humanity's push into deep space."

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The Nasa-run programme, which originated in 2016, looks to place a space station just beyond the moon - significantly further away than the International Space Station that orbits Earth.

Pratt said the habitat will be "uninhabited for several months at a time" and therefore needs to be "rugged, reliable and have the robotic capabilities to operate autonomously".

It will also boast living quarters that have enough space to support spacefarers' missions that could last months, or even years, says Engadget.

The habitat will take 18 months to build, but the site says it won't be immediately trialled in orbit. Instead, Nasa plans to test the deep space module at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida - which has seen multiple rocket and shuttle launches over the past 50 years.

Nasa's yet-to-be-released Orion spacecraft will be used to travel between Earth and the deep space module. It is expected that the spacecraft will dock with the habitat as a stop-off, before taking astronauts on a possible Mars mission.

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