Boeing awarded £14m

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Boeing has received a $14m contract from NASA to design and develop a thermal protection system (TPS) for the Orion crew exploration vehicle.


has received a


contract to design and develop a thermal protection system (TPS) for the Orion crew exploration vehicle,


's next generation spacecraft that will carry astronauts into space.

The 16-month firm-fixed-price and cost-plus-fee contract has a maximum value of approximately $14m including all priced options.

The contract, awarded by NASA Ames Research Center, is for advanced development and risk reduction of a phenolic impregnated carbon ablator (PICA) heat shield to protect Orion from the extreme heat generated during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Orion is the first human element in NASA's Constellation program, the agency's initiative to support America's effort to return humans to the moon and beyond. NASA is developing Orion as a primary vehicle for future human space exploration. Orion will carry astronauts to the International Space Station by 2014, with a goal of landing astronauts on the moon no later than 2020.

Boeing's Advanced Network and Space Systems, a division of Boeing Advanced Systems, will participate with NASA in the Orion TPS development effort.

The Orion heat shield is being developed as an expendable ablative system that dissipates a portion of the extreme heat generated during atmospheric re-entry by gradually burning away. The system will withstand lunar-direct return conditions, in which Orion will re-enter Earth's atmosphere after a return from lunar missions. Lunar return conditions are characterised by much higher speeds and generate about five times greater heat than missions returning from the International Space Station.

During the contract, Boeing and principle subcontractor Fiber Materials Inc (FMI) will perform heat shield design, structural and thermal protection system material testing, sub-system analysis, and fabrication and integration of a full scale, five-metre diameter Manufacturing Development Unit heat shield.

Boeing will provide heat shield integration and test coupon assemblies. FMI will fabricate all TPS components for the heat shield test and evaluation.

NASA's Ames Research Center, partnering with other NASA centres, will use its thermal, structural and environmental facilities to conduct extensive testing and evaluation of the PICA deliverables.

The Ames-led inter-NASA team will assess the material performance and its risks and suitability for use as the Orion heat shield. NASA will work with Boeing to provide key validation and verification functions, as well as contribute toward the development and delivery of the overall preliminary heat shield design.

The team also will conduct material property testing at laboratories located at Boeing in

Huntington Beach



, and at FMI in

Biddeford, Maine