NASA taps contractors for space architecture

Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. were among eight companies to win $6 million NASA contracts to help develop the architecture of space transportation systems that will once again send astronauts to the moon, and ? one day ? to Mars.

The concept exploration and refinement contracts, awarded by NASA's Office of Exploration Systems, include $3 million for a six-month base period and a six-month option worth another $3 million.

NASA's Project Constellation, which the companies will work on, is akin to the Defense Department's Future Combat Systems program in that it represents a system of systems required to send astronauts into space. It includes human and robotic space transportation systems, launch vehicles and related in-space and lunar infrastructure.

Each contract also calls for initial development of a crew exploration vehicle, the first space transportation system in Project Constellation's architecture. NASA also awarded three smaller concept exploration and refinement contracts that did not include preliminary planning for the exploration vehicle. Those contracts, worth up to $2 million each, went to Raytheon Co., Science Applications International Corp. and Spacehab Corp.

According to Doug Young, Northrop Grumman's lead for Project Constellation, the study contracts will require substantial collaboration among NASA and the aerospace contractors.

"The challenge here is to define a system-of-systems architecture that's technically achievable and economically feasible well into the future," Young said. "We're not just defining a single-point-in-time solution, but rather a concept that has to survive and successfully evolve through many political, economic and technological cycles."

"Our priority is to put forth our best and most innovative ideas to help NASA better define the [crew exploration vehicle] and systems requirements," said Chuck Allen, Boeing vice president and program manager of Space Exploration Systems.

The concept exploration and refinement study contracts are a prelude to a request for proposals expected in the first quarter of 2005. The RFP will result in a contract to further define and develop the crew exploration vehicle.

Other companies that received $6 million contracts were Andrews Space Inc. of Seattle; Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.; Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.; Schafer Corp. of Chelmsford, Mass.; and Transformation Space Corp. of Menlo Park, Calif.

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