NASA awards contracts for flight demonstrators

NASA has awarded Boeing Phantom Works and Lockheed Martin contracts worth a combined $354 million to continue developing the flight demonstrator technologies that will lead to an Orbital Space Plane. The contracts were awarded under NASA’s Cycle 2 Space Launch Initiative (SLI).

Boeing Phantom Works, Seal Beach, California, was awarded approximately $301 million (including options through 2006) to continue the development of the X-37 flight demonstrator. This contract includes a progressive series of approach and landing tests and the development of a space transportation research orbital vehicle. Atmospheric tests are scheduled for mid-2004 and the orbital flight is scheduled for mid-2006.

The Lockheed Martin Corporation, Denver, Colorado, was awarded a contract valued up to approximately $53 million (including options through 2006) to develop a reusable launch pad abort demonstrator. The contract includes a full-scale reusable system that will provide the capability to test technologies in a launch pad abort situation.

The solicitation was issued in January, as part of the second generation SLI, and requested proposals for a broad range of research and development activities for technology risk reduction activities.

‘The work that will result from these contracts is an important investment for NASA and the US,’ said Dr. Jerry Creedon, Associate Administrator, NASA’s Office of Aerospace Technology. ‘This is a crucial step that will greatly enhance our understanding of key technologies for a new flight system.’

The Boeing developed X-37 vehicles will be used as flight demonstrator test beds. These technology demonstrators will test key embedded technologies and flight experiments in relevant environments of ascent, on-orbit, and descent and landing phases of flight.

An initial list of experiments and technologies to be tested includes advanced guidance, navigation and control, thermal protection systems, high temperature structures, conformal reusable insulation, high-temperature seals and tile leading edges.

The Lockheed-Martin launch pad abort demonstrator will be used as a test-bed to demonstrate crew escape technologies and to validate analytical models necessary for future crew escape systems.

The launch pad abort demonstrator test bed will use fully instrumented mannequins to provide data on crew environments during the test and check out of crew escape propulsion systems, parachute deployment, vehicle orientation, landing techniques and external aeroshell configurations. This vehicle may be upgraded to test additional maturing launch pad abort technologies to improve crew safety and survivability.