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Boeing, ATK, Submit Competing Bids For Ares I Upper Stage

By | April 16, 2007

      The Boeing Co. [BA] and Alliant Techsystems [ATK] submitted competing bids to NASA to build the Ares I crew launch vehicle upper stage rocket.

      The Orion crew exploration vehicle and Ares lifter form the Constellation next-generation system that in the middle of the next decade will succeed the space shuttles fleet that is to retire in 2010.

      The Boeing-led team provided a tailored proposal designed to meet or exceed NASA requirements by leveraging best-of-industry suppliers, including several with advanced technology development contracts on critical Ares I systems, according to the company.

      To help reduce risks in the program, the Boeing plan will include technologies derived from those developed for the space shuttle program.

      “We offer unique capability to NASA’s Ares I team, bringing value based on our experience in commercial, defense and space programs, along with innovation and new advocacy and outreach efforts,” said Jim Chilton, Boeing vice president of Exploration Launch Systems. “We are completely committed to delivering NASA a safe, affordable and producible upper stage.”

      The Boeing team includes Hamilton Sundstrand, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corp. [UTX], Moog Inc. [MOG.A and MOG.B], Northrop Grumman Corp. [NOC], Orion Propulsion Inc., SUMMA Technology Inc., United Space Alliance and United Launch Alliance. The last two are joint ventures of Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT].

      “We recognize our suppliers are critical to our proposal, and we have worked closely with them to ensure they know our processes, approaches, people and tools and that their capabilities precisely match NASA’s needs,” said Chilton. “Boeing and its suppliers are fully prepared to continue our collaboration with NASA and are positioned to begin work immediately upon contract award.”

      Boeing submitted two earlier volumes: one on past performance on March 16 and another on mission suitability and plans on April 2. Delivery of this final Ares I upper stage production proposal volume culminates more than a year-long effort to bring Boeing’s best lean manufacturing practices to the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the upper stage will be built.

      NASA is expected to award the Ares I upper stage production contract in late August or early September.

      Ares I, which will transport the Orion crew exploration vehicle to low Earth orbit, is an essential element of the nation’s space exploration program that will return astronauts to the moon no later than 2020.

      Meanwhile, ATK submitted a proposal in which it would be the prime contractor, aided by Pratt & Whitney, a unit of United Technologies, and Lockheed.

      ATK already is involved in the Constellation program, developing hardware and materials for the crew launch vehicle.

      In December 2005, NASA selected ATK to be the prime contractor for design and development of the first-stage propulsion system for the Ares I.