NASA Issues Ares I Upper Stage RFP; Deadline Is April 13
NASA issued a request for proposal for the upper stage of the Ares I launch vehicle, telling contractors that proposals must be submitted by 1 p.m. CT April 13.
Ares I is part of a sweeping, multi-billion-dollar Project Constellation plan to buy rockets, crew-carrying space capsules and other gear that would replace the aging space shuttle fleet due to retire in 2010. The new hardware will go to the International Space Station, then to the moon by 2020, and later to Mars and beyond.
The complete Ares lifter will loft the Orion crew exploration vehicle into space.
Previously, NASA chose Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] to produce Orion, rejecting a competing offer from Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC] and The Boeing Co. [BA]. Lockheed stands to pull in $3.9 billion at least from the Orion deal, with later option awards potentially worth another $3.5 billion, if options are exercised.
There also will be a more muscular lifter, Ares V, to carry heavier payloads into the heavens.
The request for proposals for Ares I states the procurement approach for obtaining the upper stage element.
Whichever contractor wins the Ares I upper stage contract, the firm also will provide support to a NASA-led design team during the design phase.
That contract will provide for manufacture and assembly of test articles, flight test units, and the operational upper stage elements to support the NASA flight manifest through 2016.
Final manufacturing and assembly will take place at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.
The Ares I upper stage, with a separately procured upper stage engine and a separately procured instrument ring, will provide the navigation, guidance, control and propulsion required for the second stage of the Ares I ascent.
The first stage will consist of a single reusable solid rocket booster and motor similar to those used on the space shuttle but with a fifth motor segment attached.
NASA announced that the contract to manufacture and assemble the Ares I upper stage element will be awarded through a full and open competition and managed by the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala.
Constellation Means Progress: Bush
Project Constellation is the first new major hardware, and first new bold mission, for NASA in years.
It represents the realization of a vision for space exploration enunciated by President Bush in 2004, in which he said the United States is committed to the exploration of space beyond Earth.
Further, Bush said then that this move beyond low Earth orbit, the limit of U.S. space activities for decades, is eminently affordable.
The administration points out that “NASA spends, and will continue to spend, less than 1 percent of the federal budget. Our nation’s investment in space is reasonable for a tremendously promising program of discovery and exploration that historically has resulted in concrete benefits as well as inspiring Americans and people throughout the world.”
And there is something to show for the money spent.
According to the administration, “The benefits of space technology are far-reaching and affect the lives of every American. Space exploration has yielded advances in communications, weather forecasting, electronics, and countless other fields. For example, image processing technologies used in lifesaving CAT Scanners and MRIs trace their origins to technologies engineered for use in space.”
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has stated that either the United States will lead the way in exploring space beyond low Earth orbit, or Americans will cede space leadership to another nation or nations, because some segment of the human race always will press to explore the unknowns, to move beyond age-old limits.