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Sun, Apr 22, 2007

NASA Modifies Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle Contract With Lockheed

Two Years Added To Design Phase, Other Changes

In an announcement Saturday, NASA revealed the agency has modified its contract with Lockheed Martin to design, test, and build the Orion crew exploration vehicle... a move that will push the first delivery of an Orion capsule to December 2013 from August 2011.

According to NASA, two years were added to the design phase of the Orion vehicle; two test flights of Orion's launch abort system were added; and production of a pressurized cargo carrier for the International Space Station (ISS) were removed from the initial design phase.

A fourth component of the contract modification provides for use of surplus raw materials for Orion; surplus raw materials such as aluminum-lithium ingots are currently used in the construction of space shuttle fuel tanks.

"NASA and Lockheed have been working together as a team during the past six months to iron out many critical design and schedule details," said Skip Hatfield, manager the Orion Project at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This contract update will synchronize our spending plan with the rest of the Constellation Program."

The update is the result of a NASA request for engineering change proposal issued Dec. 15, 2006. Lockheed Martin's proposal was received March 7, 2007. The contract modification was signed April 20.

Under new terms, the first manned Orion flight is now scheduled for March 2015... which will leave NASA without manned spaceflight capability for nearly five years, after the retirement of the space shuttles in 2010.

As ANN reported in February, even as Orion hasn't left the drawing board, NASA has already extended one of its missions... with agency officials saying the new capsules will continue to fly to the International Space Station until 2020... four years longer than originally planned.

The modification reflects continuing progress on Orion's development, including program formulation and systems assessments addressing the rocket, ground infrastructure, and all other elements necessary for a successful first launch. The period of performance now matches the evolving NASA budget landscape, according to the release.

"The Orion team has made some critical decisions that will maximize the performance and flexibility of this spacecraft," said Jeff Hanley, manager of the Constellation Program at Johnson. "This spacecraft will be a cornerstone of America's human exploration of the solar system by a new generation of explorers, and these changes and additional tests will ensure that it is robust enough to accomplish its missions."

Meanwhile, work progresses as planned on the contract. NASA and Lockheed Martin have completed Orion's systems requirements review and are moving toward a systems design review scheduled in August.

FMI: www.nasa.gov/constellation, www.lockheedmartin.com

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