Lockheed Martin’s (NYSE: LMT) space business has received a potential six-year, $194 million contract from NASA to design, develop and test multiple Mars ascent vehicles, including a flight system and test units.
The Mars Ascent Vehicle Integrated System cost-plus-fixed-fee contract includes the design and development of the vehicle’s ground support equipment, NASA said Tuesday.
The MAV is part of the Mars Sample Return campaign that intends to collect and send sample tubes of Martian rocks, atmospheric samples and sediment to Earth for analysis.
The vehicle will be a payload aboard the Mars lander vehicle. MAV’s mission includes receiving sample tubes collected by the Perseverance rover on the red planet’s surface, launching them to a predefined orbit and releasing the samples into orbit to be captured by the European Space Agency’s Earth Return Orbiter spacecraft equipped with NASA’s Capture, Containment and Return System payload.
NASA said it expects the Sample Retrieval Lander to lift off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida no earlier than 2026.
“Committing to the Mars Ascent Vehicle represents an early and concrete step to hammer out the details of this ambitious project not just to land on Mars, but to take off from it,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for science at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
“We are nearing the end of the conceptual phase for this Mars Sample Return mission, and the pieces are coming together to bring home the first samples from another planet,” added Zurbuchen.
NASA sought industry proposals for the MAVIS program in August 2021.