|Introduction: The Space Launch System (SLS) is the most powerful rocket ever built and provides a critical heavy-lift launch capability. Enhanced capabilities enable missions including human exploration, planetary science, astrophysics, heliophysics, planetary defense and commercial space exploration. We will focus on mission concepts relevant to the Global Exploration Roadmap (GER) and the Solar System Exploration Research Virtual Institute (SSERVI) mission.
Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM): Bill Gerstenmaier at the NASA Lunar Science Institute (NLSI) meeting in July 2013 referred to the ARM in part as a mission to the lunar vicinity. The ARM mission requirements result in system design based on a modified version of our 702 spacecraft product line. Including a NASA Docking System (NDS) on the Asteroid Redirect Vehicle allows for easier crewed exploration mission integration and execution.
Asteroid Exploration Module: Crew operations at a redirected asteroid could be significantly enhanced by providing additional systems and EVA capabilities beyond those available from Orion only missions. An Asteroid Exploration Module (AEM) located with the asteroid would improve the science and technical return of the asteroid mission while also increasing Orion capability through resource provision and providing an abort location and safe haven for vehicle contingencies.
Cislunar Exploration Platform: The AEM could be repurposed as a cislunar exploration platform that advances scientific research, enables lunar surface exploration and provides a deep space vehicle assembly and servicing site. The Exploration Platform provides a flexible basis for future exploration, since it reduces cost through reuse of expensive vehicles and reduces the number of launches needed to accomplish missions. International Space Station (ISS) industry partners have been working for the past several years on concepts for using ISS development methods and residual assets to support a broad range of exploration missions. These concepts have matured along with planning details for NASA’s SLS and Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) to allow serious consideration for a platform located in the Earth-Moon Libration (EML) system.
Lunar Surface: The mission objectives are to provide lunar surface access for crew and cargo and to provide as much system reuse as possible. Subsequent missions to the surface can reuse the same lander and Lunar Transfer Vehicle.
Mars Vicinity: The International space community has declared that our unified long term goal is for a human mission to Mars but major work remains to define how it will be done. Translunar infrastructure and heavy lift capability are key to this approach. Recent analysis has suggested that a habitat-based gateway in translunar space would be helpful as an assembly node for Mars and for many other missions. The moons of Mars would provide an excellent stepping stone to the surface. As a “shake-down” cruise before landing, a mission to Deimos or Phobos would test all of the systems except those needed to get to the surface and back. This test would provide confidence for the in-space transportations and crew habitat systems.