Never mind the turning of airliner seats into commodities, Boeing has shown its opening hand for the commoditization of lunar and interplanetary space transportation systems.
Known as the Deep Space Gateway, the habitat could support critical research and help open opportunities for global government or commercial partnerships in deep space, including Moon, Mars and deep space ‘still point’ missions. It would be powered by a Solar Electric Propulsion (SEP) system.
The Gateways could be assembled in their initial orbits with from as few a three or four ultra heavy payload rocket launches. Think of them as being constructed like a chain of mini International Space Stations.
From then on, they could support the movement of humans as well as robots to orbits around Mars, perhaps even Venus, or resource rich asteroids, dormant comets, or enigmatic minor planets like Vesta and Ceres.
They would become the space bridges to landing humans, or highly intelligent machines, on profoundly inhospitable but intriguing places, like the polar caps and canyons of Mars, or the strangely glittering salt pillar fountains discovered in the legions of micro worlds that swarm in the vast spaces between the inner rocky planets and the gaseous but tightly gravitationally bound giants of the outer solar system.
Boeing, perhaps jolted by upstarts like Space X, appears to have glimpsed the gigantic cosmic canvas on which the industries of this and following centuries will, at last, break the ties of terrestrial environments.
Its statement is a shade less florid than this of course.
The Deep Space Gateway could be the waypoint for Mars missions. Utilizing a docking system akin to what the International Space Station uses for commercial operations, it could host the Deep Space Transport vehicle, which would take humans to Mars. Once near Mars, crews could deploy a lander for surface missions or conduct other scientific and robotic missions in orbit.
The transport vehicle would be equipped with a habitat specifically designed to protect passengers from deep space’s harsh environment and its own robust SEP bus.
In fact, both of Boeing’s concepts leverage proven solar electric propulsion technology and hardware design from the 702 satellite family.
The gateway and transport systems are partially being developed as part of NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Technologies (Next Step) program and an ongoing High Power SEP technology development effort within the NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).
Nevertheless, as ambit gestures go, this is about as grand a notion as a once earth bound air transport player can possibly offer.
This reporter would not be the only one on Earth waiting to see if Boeing, or a similar entity, makes a preemptive bid for an enterprise like Space X. There is an awful lot of territory up for grabs, one way or another.