Press Release

Lockheed Martin Scores Success with Landing Technology Tests for a Future Astronaut Crew Exploration Vehicle

By SpaceRef Editor
July 25, 2004
Filed under , ,

Lockheed Martin [NYSE: LMT] has successfully performed a series of drop
tests at the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground in Yuma, Ariz., to validate soft
landing technology that can be used for astronaut crew capsules upon return
to Earth. The technology makes use of an array of dual airbags that, upon
ground impact, releases air from the outer bags of the system, allowing the
capsule to settle softly to the ground on its inner airbags.

“This technology could be used in a number of ways, one of which would help
ensure a safe landing for our astronauts in new crew exploration vehicles
that are being considered for the future,” said Michael Coats, vice
president and deputy of Space Exploration at Lockheed Martin Space Systems.
“These successful drop tests provide us and NASA with solid data on airbag
and landing technology that could be very instrumental in future crew
capsule systems. Whatever the requirements will be for a new crew vehicle,
the safety of our astronauts continues to be the number one priority in
every design we are considering.”

The drop tests were conducted June 24-25 under Lockheed Martin funding to
demonstrate technology and risk reduction for space exploration. The 5,216
kg/11,500 lb capsule mass simulator was designed using the mass and center
of gravity properties of astronaut crew capsules that are being considered
for the future.

During a series of tests, the capsule simulator was dropped from various
heights and inclinations. The airbag system performed as expected with each
impact, demonstrating that the modeling techniques were right on target.
Instead of bouncing upon impact, the crew capsule mass simulator gently
settled to Earth after each drop on a “pillow” of airbags. Instrumentation
indicated that the short-duration deceleration forces would be very benign
for both spacecraft and crewmembers.

“Unlike the Apollo program that limited the capsules to water landings, the
technology that we are testing today could allow a future crew exploration
vehicle to safely return the crew to land, providing more flexibility in
landing the crew and making it more affordable, as well,” added Coats.

Lockheed Martin will continue to test the airbag and landing technology,
including future airborne drop tests, to demonstrate nominal and abort
reentry capability. The tests utilize an airbag system provided by Irvin
Aerospace of Anaheim, California.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, headquartered near Denver, Colo., is
one of the major operating units of Lockheed Martin Corporation. Space
Systems Company designs, develops, tests and manufactures a variety of
advanced technology systems for space and defense. Chief products include
space launch systems, defense systems, interplanetary and science
spacecraft, spacecraft for commercial and government customers, fleet
ballistic missiles and missile defense systems.

SpaceRef staff editor.