Lockheed Martin is studying an Atlas V launch system for Bigelow Aerospace's planned commercial human spaceflight service, but does not plan to change the engines to man-rate the expendable booster. The only significant change it expects is to add an emergency detection system (EDS) to monitor for malfunctions that would require an emergency escape by the manned capsule.
© Lockheed Martin
The launcher will have an EDS
Bigelow plans to operate an orbital complex comprising inflatable spacecraft during the next decade, and has chosen the Atlas V 401 for launching a manned capsule. The 401 has no solid rocket boosters and, with its Centaur upper stage, can place about 9,900kg (20,000lb) into low-Earth orbit.
"Atlas V was one of the options evaluated by NASA to launch the [now cancelled] Orbital Space Plane," says Lockheed. "At the time, a NASA-funded study was undertaken to determine the required changes to Atlas for human rating. The most significant change was the addition of the EDS." The company does not expect any changes to either the core stage's Russian RD-180 engine or its Pratt & Whitney RL-10 upper-stage motor.
The companies signed a memorandum of understanding on co-operation last month.