Northrop, Boeing consider teaming on manned space vehicle

Northrop Grumman Corp. and the Boeing Co. may work as a team in a competition to develop NASA's project to send astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond, Northrop Grumman officials said this week.

The two companies hope to win the contract to design the Crew Exploration Vehicle, which will transport manned crews beyond low-Earth orbit and back again. The vehicle is one of the building blocks of the overall architecture of NASA's Constellation Project that will enable manned exploration of the solar system.

Under the proposed agreement, the companies will work on future phases of the project, Northrop officials said.

A competition to develop the vehicle is expected to begin in 2005. Test flights are scheduled for 2008, and it is expected to be ready for a manned, Earth orbit flight by 2014. NASA plans to send a crew to the moon by 2020.

The amount of money NASA will have for the project is not set because Congress has not approved funding yet.

The Crew Exploration Vehicle is similar to the Apollo Command Module used in the original moon missions in that it will send astronauts beyond earth orbit. NASA officials want the Project Constellation elements to be designed with flexibility in mind so they can be used in a variety of missions.

Northrop Grumman, Boeing and nine other companies including Lockheed Martin Corp. and Orbital Sciences Corp. won $3 million contracts in September to conduct studies for the manned vehicle project. Several of the companies are expected to compete for the Project Constellation contract.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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