Boeing has received a NASA contract to design and develop a thermal protection system (TPS) for the Orion crew exploration vehicle,
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
Orion is the first human element in NASA’s Constellation program, the agency’s initiative to support
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.
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