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Boeing Hands NASA Proposal For Ares V Heavy Lifter Component

By | February 23, 2009

      Boeing [BA] gave NASA a proposal for design support of a component in the planned Ares V heavy lifter rocket, the company announced yesterday.

      Ares V will boost to space large items required for missions to the moon that would begin in 2020, the first lunar trips since Apollo missions in the 1970s.

      Specifically, Boeing offered a proposal to support the Ares V Phase 1 Design Support Contracts, relating to the Ares V cargo launch vehicle’s payload shroud.

      The shroud will protect the Altair lunar lander during launch; the Earth-departure stage; the core stage, a liquid-fueled central booster element; and avionics and software.

      Work includes assessing requirements, risks and opportunities; performing trade studies and analysis; and producing final reports.

      The company proposes to use the experience of its Huntsville, Ala.-based team, supplemented by expertise from across Boeing, to develop products that will enable NASA to verify the Ares V design concept and demonstrate that the launch vehicle can meet its mission objectives.

      This attempt to capture work on the Ares V project comes even as questions abound concerning the Ares I project, a smaller rocket that will carry the Orion space capsule, or crew exploration vehicle, to orbit.

      Lockheed Martin [LMT] is leading the Orion space capsule development and construction program. But the Ares I program involves other contractors working on different segments of the Ares I being developed separately by Boeing, Alliant Techsystems [ATK] and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies [UTX].

      Pressure is being applied to President Obama’s administration to drop the Ares I program, and use instead modified versions of military rockets made by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed. That effort to deep-six the Ares I program upset former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, who expressed his discontent in a conversation with a member of the Obama team.

      Boeing officials this week touted their experience, as they announced the Ares V proposal.

      "Boeing has designed and produced shrouds for Delta, Sea Launch and Titan rockets, and we’ve defined avionics and subsystem architectures across a wide range of aerospace products, including Delta, the space shuttle, the International Space Station and Ares I," said Jim Chilton, Boeing vice president of Exploration Launch Systems.

      The two-stage, vertically stacked Ares V will serve as NASA’s primary rocket for safe, reliable delivery of large-scale hardware to space — from the lunar landing craft and materials for establishing a moon base to food, water and other staples needed to extend a human presence beyond Earth’s orbit.

      The Ares V Phase 1 contracts will be managed out of Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.

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