The Sierra Nevada in Louisville offers a glimpse of life in lunar orbit


A week after Vice President Mike Pence declared the US's intention to relocate humans to the Moon by 2024, the aerospace and defense industry entrepreneur Sierra Nevada Corp. of Louisville unveiled what could be key elements in achieving this goal.

Sierra Nevada was exposed to media attention Tuesday in its complex of its large inflatable fabric environment, designed for long-time human activities in lunar orbit, as well as its propulsion and propulsion element . Both are key components of NASA's planned lunar-orbit gateway architecture, considered essential for bringing people back to the moon, but also to develop human exploration capabilities of Mars and at the same time. -of the.

"The way NASA will proceed with the purchase of Gateway, will not buy the entire gateway to a single company," said John Roth, vice president of business development for Sierra Nevada Space Systems.

"They will buy items from different companies, so they will buy the habitat of a supplier.On a company they will buy the power and propulsion element. logistic element of a company. "

Steve Lindsey, former NASA space shuttle astronaut and currently vice president of space exploration systems of Sierra Nevada, presented the prototype prototype 's inflation feature. habitat as one of its defining characteristics.

"One of the design criteria I've given my team was, I want this gateway so that NASA can launch it on their rocket, on the Space Launch System rocket, or on a conventional rocket." said Lindsey.

The inflatable feature means that it can fit into a standard 5.2 meter rocket fairing at launch, then inflate to its maximum size of 27 feet in diameter and 27 feet in length when it reaches the target. orbit.

The power and propulsion component designed for Gateway leverages the cargo module systems of the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser spacecraft, as well as the hardware of its space technology product line, aimed at rapid, low-risk development while by exceeding NASA's fuel requirements.

The Gateway is designed to support a 1,100-day mission in orbit around the moon. It can also support missions in deep space. The catwalk can accommodate up to four astronauts at a time, which would usually be on board for missions of 30 to 90 days a year.

Guests at the Sierra Nevada facilities on Tuesday had the opportunity to visit the interior of the fully inflated housing prototype. They inspected elements ranging from outside to outside in Vectran to the quarters of hygiene and sleep, through the medical and recovery center, the waste collection system (toilets). , robotic workstations, robotic workspaces and astro space, capable of producing a lettuce head (for example) in 24 days.

"Having something green and alive, it's psychologically awesome for them because otherwise, everything is really sterile," said Kimberly Schwandt, head of corporate communications at Sierra Nevada.

One of those who studied lunar travel prototypes on Tuesday was Leonard David, a space-age writer in the Boulder area, whose latest book, "Moon Rush – The New Space Race", should be published in May by National Geographic.

He applauds NASA's attempt to return to human space exploration, but pointed to the vulnerability of its prospects to the shifting sands of political sentiment at a time when America was politically divided.

"The administrative changes (over time) have been lethal to the space program in some of the larger initiatives," David said. "All of these things can go down."

However, he added, "if NASA does not do it, other countries will intervene, especially China."

Charlie Brennan: 303-473-1327, [email protected] or

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