Encyclopedia Astronautica

American manned lunar rover. Study 2004. Morphlab (Modular Roving Planetary Habitat, Laboratory, and Base) was a lunar exploration system proposed by the University of Maryland.

It was composed of several modules that would land and assemble autonomously, forming a long duration manned base. Once the manned phase was complete, the modules would disassemble and move autonomously to an alternate lunar site, up to 1000 km away.

During transit, one power module would be connected to two habitable modules to form a vehicle assembly. All three modules would have drive systems powered by the electrical power module.

At a base location, the modules would dock together through inflatable tunnels to form a base with both living and laboratory space. It would then be resupplied and then await another crew for further lunar study. The complete base would consist of six 4 m diameter habitable modules and four power modules. Each habitat module consisted of a habitat unit on a powered chassis, with a total mass of 3700 kg. The use of circular pressure vessels allowed clustering with other units. Electrical power was provided to each chassis, and each module provided its own mechanical locomotion with 4 x 1m spherical wheels. The Dynamic Isotope Power System contained in four separate modules produced a maximum of 20 kw peak power total. The system was designed to fit in current launch vehicles, with a total of 26 Delta IVH launches required to launch the system to the moon. Reserves and redundancy meant that a mission could still proceed even with the failure of 1 power and 1 habitat module. A crew of four would be accommodated on 90 day lunar missions.

.General design constraints for Morphlab were:

  • The program would support a series of ten manned moon missions between 2015 and 2020.
  • A manned mission would consist of four crew members on the moon's surface for three lunar day/night cycles, or about three months.
  • Morphlab components would be launched from the Delta IV Heavy or Atlas V Launch Vehicle. Specifics of the crew arrival and departure vehicle were not included in the scope of this program.
  • Morphlab would be designed such that the failure or loss of any single module at any time would not disruption nominal activities. In the event of loss or failure of any two modules during a manned mission phase, Morphlab would support the crew for a worst-case interval until a lunar launch window occurred and the crew could return.
  • No design feature of Morphlab would preclude its adaptation for use on the Martian surface.
  • The design would adhere to NASA STD-3000 specifications for crew systems.
  • All system technologies would be at a minimum NASA technology readiness level (TRL) of 3 on Jan. 1, 2005, and be capable of reaching a TRL of 6 by the technology cut-off date of Jan. 1, 2010.

16 modules would make up the main Morphlab infrastructure. One launch was necessary for each module. Modules would be built in three categories: habitable (supplying living space for the crew), chassis (wheeled drive trains that would attach to the habitable modules), and power. The Morphlab system would be composed of six habitable modules, six chassis modules, and four power modules.


Crew Size: 4. Electric System: 20.00 average kW.

Gross mass: 3,700 kg (8,100 lb).
Height: 4.00 m (13.10 ft).
Diameter: 4.00 m (13.10 ft).

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Associated Countries
See also
  • Lunar Rovers Lunar rovers were studied in a dizzying variety of sizes and shapes by NASA in the 1960's - including crawlers, trains, hoppers, and even worms. Two rovers designed for manned use actually traveled the lunar surface in the 1970's - the American two-man Lunar Rover, and the Soviet Lunokhod, which traveled the moon in robotic mode but was originally designed as emergency cosmonaut transportation. More...

Associated Manufacturers and Agencies
  • NASA American agency overseeing development of rockets and spacecraft. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, USA, USA. More...
  • Maryland American manufacturer of rockets and spacecraft. University of Maryland, USA. More...

  • Zakrajsek, James J; McKissock, David B; Woytach, Jeffrey M; Zakrajsek, June F; Oswald, Fred B; McEntire, Kelly J; Hill, Gerald M; Abel, P; Exploration Rover Concepts and Development Challenges, NASA/TM-2005-213555 / AIAA-2005-2525, March 2005.

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