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NASA Picks Contractors For New Space Shuttle

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NASA today announced the selection of Lockheed Martin Corp. and the team of Northrop Grumman Corp. and The Boeing Co. that will lead to an award to build the agency’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV). The selection is part of NASA’s plan to have two contractors compete in the design and production process for the Space Shuttle’s replacement.

NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration calls for the CEV to carry up to six astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit soon after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010. It was reported yesterday that NASA is targeting a manned return to the moon will take place in 2015 at the earliest.

“I don’t have a specific date, but sometime between 2015, which is the earliest we think we can do it, and 2020, which would be the latest,” said Michael Griffin, the new administrator of NASA, when asked at the Paris Air Show about NASA plans to return to the moon.

He then added that the mission could be followed by the construction of a multinational space station there.

The CEV acquisition strategy is a multi-phased project. Phase 1 calls for industry to mature their crewed vehicle designs and demonstrate their ability to manage the cost, schedule, and risk of human-rated spacecraft development.

Phase 2, covering final CEV design and production, was scheduled to start with a down-selection to a single industry team in 2008. To reduce or eliminate the gap between the Shuttle’s retirement in 2010 and an operational CEV, the Phase 2 down-selection is planned for 2006.

Griffin, who took over the top job at the U.S.’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration in April, is hoping to fulfil U.S. President George W. Bush’s high-profile plan to return humans to the moon and possibly to land on Mars.

“We have enough money to put people back on the moon in that timeframe,” he said. “The model that I have is that we should build a lunar outpost similar to the kinds of multinational outposts we have in Antarctica.”

NASA will make decisions on what craft will be used to reach the moon in the next few months, Griffin said: “I am hoping we will have some fairly firm conclusions by the end of this summer.”

Also posted at VERMONT SPACE
(Where Space Is What We’ve Got)

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About Bennett Dawson

  • Bennett

    According to NASA sources, the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate has recommended (internally) that NASA pursue development of a heavy lift launch system based, in part, on the current Space Shuttle. Such a Shuttle-derived Launch Vehicle (SDLV) would be capable of placing 80-100 metric tons of payload into Low Earth Orbit (LEO). NASA is expected to formally reveal its SDLV plans in the first week of July.

    “Today, the space shuttle is an exceptional heavy lift vehicle “that can put (240,000 pounds) into low Earth orbit, but the only problem,” he said, “is that (200,000) pounds of that is the shuttle itself.” “The Saturn V was a wonderful vehicle, but it could only put something like (200,000 pounds) into low Earth orbit, and that only got two people on the surface of the moon for a few days,” NASA Administrator Griffin said.

    So it’s not a huge gain, but it isn’t a totally expendable vehicle like the Saturn V Rocket.

  • Really – more lifting power than a Saturn V? Those were beasts, and NASA still could not come up with any better in 30 years. So the reusable shuttles I mentioned were more for tourism or simple traveling missions?

  • Bennett

    “Yes, Northrop and Boeing.”

    I lived in Seattle for two years. Boeing has a most excellent flight museum (up close to an SR71). And I’ve flown many a flight in their planes and lived to tell. So I wish your personal interests the best of luck!

    Tan – Actually, for the heavy lift requirements of the space program, NASA is looking to utilize Shuttle Based Technology. I.E. an unmanned payload module attached to the main shuttle engine and SRBs to get the big stuff into orbit.

    More lifting power than a Saturn V and the technology is proven.

  • Does this negate all of the other contests that NASA held to redesign and make those reusable shuttles? Some of them worked, although maybe not to the perfect specifications of NASA.

  • Oh, I don’t know… I think the tag team of Northrop and Boeing would be a tremendous choice for NASA. Yes, Northrop and Boeing.

  • Bennett

    Sorry DJRadiohead. I read your first post again, and cannot believe my lameness.

    Which team do you…ahmmm… favor?

  • Bennett

    Which contractor do you think would be best suited for the job?

  • I know all about that aspect of it, Bennett. I know a couple of people who worked on the proposal team for one of those two semi-finalists. My fingers have officially crossed.

  • Bennett

    Thanks Eric and Eric, I was visiting my sources to try and figure out why I didn’t post something on the new planetary discovery, and found this story as relatively new news… So rather than wait, I jumped on it. Love the quotes from Mike, he’s a real go getter, something sorely lacking at NASA for the last 20 years or so.

    Tourists on the moon in our lifetime… If we go by the pace of the last 30 years, eccchh.

    Not unless I live to be 100 or so (in which case I’m not even half way there!). So, maybe so. Tourists in orbit, definitely!

    DJRadiohead. Count your chickens, ’cause these are the two semi-finalists. ONE of ’em is building the next Shuttle.

  • The future of the food on my table would be greatly enhanced by one of those two competing teams winning this competition.

    All in all, I like the idea of a return to the moon as a mission. I also think we have seen the tragic results of not upgrading our space transportation system.

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks BD,

    I would like to go to the moon
    In a rocket ship up in the air
    I would like to go to the moon
    But I don’t think I want to live there

  • Very cool, Bennett.

    Think we’ll see tourists heading to the moon in our lifetime?