Tuesday, February 2, 2010

NASA selects Boeing and Lockheed Martin for Commercial Crew Development Program

[Editor's Note: After the understandable enthusiasm for the Obama administration's proposed NASA program changes and 2011 budget wains a bit, it will be fair to ask if some some people might be confusing the new commercial space initiative with "privatization." It would be foolish to suspend critical judgment because of a passionate desire, because the new NASA initiative appears to match a certain assumption of what commercial space ought to be.

The end of Constellation probably means an end to Orion, certainly Altair; vehicles being designed and built by Northrup Grumman and Boeing. Along with Lockheed Martin, these are commercial companies, also. Despite being latecomers whose joint initiative ultimately lost out to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences for the first twenty ATV launches to ISS, it would be foolish to underestimate their competitve ability if the new initiative gains congressional approval.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) is a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing formed in December 2006.]

February 2. NASA announced today its selection of United Launch Alliance to participate in its new Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) Program. NASA created the CCDev Program to develop system concepts, key technologies, and capabilities that ultimately will be used in commercial crew space transportation systems. ULA was awarded $6.7 million to develop an Emergency Detection System (EDS), which is a significant element necessary for a safe and highly reliable human rated launch vehicle.

"ULA is pleased to participate with NASA on the CCDev Program," said Michael Gass, ULA President and Chief Executive Officer. "We look forward to supporting NASA as they embark on a new initiative that emphasizes commercial access to space. We are confident that our flight-proven Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles can help NASA achieve its goals."

The EDS monitors critical launch vehicle and spacecraft systems and issues status, warning and abort commands to the crew during their mission to low Earth orbit. ULA studies show that the development of the EDS will help meet the requirements for human rating the Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.

The CCDev Program will allow ULA to build upon its heritage launch systems and its on-going company investments toward commercial human space flight. ULA will work closely with NASA to identify critical failure modes of the flight-proven Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles. ULA will then develop the hardware components and software processes that will detect these modes allowing for rigorous and exhaustive testing on a prototype EDS before an initial crewed flight.

With ULA's unparalleled heritage and experience in expendable launch vehicle development and operation, ULA is uniquely qualified to support NASA in developing and demonstrating the EDS for a Commercial Crew Program. ULA's goal is to develop a system for NASA that builds upon the proven reliability of both the Atlas V and Delta IV for safe human space flight.

ULA program management, engineering, test and mission support functions are headquartered in Denver, Colo. Manufacturing, assembly and integration operations are located at Decatur, Ala., Harlingen, Texas, and San Diego, Calif. Launch operations are located at CCAFS, Fla., and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

For more information on the ULA joint venture, visit the ULA website at www.ulalaunch.com, or call the ULA Launch Hotline at 1-877-ULA-4321 (852-4321).

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