Boeing pushes space station as launchpad for Mars

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April 04, 2017

It may not be as cool as the sci-fi space stations in shows such as Star Trek but this could be the launch platform for a manned mission to Mars.

US aerospace giant Boeing wants to build a deep space gateway and transport system that would be positioned in “cislunar’’ space near the moon.

The station  is being developed as part of NASA’s Space Launch System and would be called the Deep Space Gateway.

The aerospace company said the habitat could support critical research and help open opportunities for global government or commercial partnerships in deep space, including lunar missions.

“The ability to simultaneously launch humans and cargo on SLS (Space Launch System) would allow us to assemble the gateway in four launches in the early 2020s,” said Pete McGrath, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing’s space exploration division.

The company said the gateway could become a waypoint for Mars missions and host a deep space transport vehicle capable of taking humans to the red planet.

Both the station and transport vehicle would use solar electric propulsions developed for satellites.

Solar electric propulsion uses a combination of an ion drive and solar panels to power a spacecraft and is 10 times more efficient than conventional liquid fuel systems.

According to details revealed last year, the scheme would see Boeing assembling the station between  2021 and 2025.

It would use five launches of NASA’s Space Launch System to boost two habitat modules, an airlock, a logistics module, and a power bus and augmentation module into space.

Boeing’s vice president and general manager for space technology John Elbon told journalists the space station would be an interim step for a journey Mars.

Crews would spend the rest of the 2020s evaluating environmental control and life support, habitability, logistics, operational procedures and vehicle systems in the radiation-rich environment of deep space,  website space.com quoted Elbon as saying.

A mission to Mars orbit would follow in the early 2030s followed by a landing in the mid- to late 2030s.

Entrepreneur Elon Musk is also planning a Mars mission but the timeline has changed several times.

Musk’s company had originally planned to put a lander called Red Dragon on Mars in 2022 but then moved the target to 2018.

Earlier this year, it moved the date again to 2020.

SpaceX plans to follow up the landing with a manned mission.