Lockheed Martin and the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) are hoping they will benefit from the awarding of contracts from NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS, with the results forthcoming next week.
LM and MAF are associated with three of the six finalists, who await the August 17 announcement on who will benefit from the $500m deal from NASA to provide commercial access to the International Space Station (ISS).
The six finalist, Andrews Space, Rocketplane Kistler, Space Dev, Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, SPACEHAB and Transformational Space Corporation are in the running for the deal that may also include future manned access to the ISS, as NASA continues to turn its attentions to manned exploration of the solar system.
The primary aim of the COTS contract – announced by NASA back in January – is for cargo, with interested companies tasked with submitting proposals to demonstrate their capability to deliver payloads to the ISS.
The August 17 decision is likely to select two companies, who will then aim to undertake a demonstration flight before 2010. In the interim, they must also show they can achieve external and internal cargo delivery and disposal, internal cargo delivery and return to Earth, and crew transportation, while being able to attract private investment for further expansion of their capabilities.
‘It’s like going to Avis and renting a car,’ says Bob Simms, director, Program Management & Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin, speaking in the internal MSB magazine. ‘NASA wants to buy commercial services from these companies to take cargo to the space station.’
Simms noted that the Michoud facility in New Orleans is aligned with three of the finalists, most notably Rocketplane Kistler, with Lockheed Martin’s role being that of a merchant supplier/sub contractor, should any of finalists they are associated with end up winning NASA contracts.
‘We would provide major sub-assemblies in the structures and propulsion area at Michoud,’ noted Simms. ‘We wouldn’t just be building parts; there would be design work too.’
While NASA is expected to award the contracts on their individual merits, the attractiveness of aiding the Michoud Facility is not lost on Simms, who believes their position also aids their associated finalists.
‘We operate in a NASA facility, these companies know the quality of the work we do here, and some want to help the area rebuild from Katrina and take advantage of the Gulf Opportunity Zone investment and tax incentives.’
NASA will also be aware that Michoud is heading for a transition that is aligned with the agency’s plan to return to the moon by 2014. MAF’s primary role at present is to fabricate the External Tanks used on the Shuttle program – which will end in 2010.
MAF and Lockheed are also major players in the NASA’s new focus on exploration, but – according to sources – are expected to lose out on the CEV (Crew Exploration Vehicle) contract to Boeing/NG when it is announced by NASA on August 31.
With ATK developing the 5 segment booster for the CLV (Crew Launch Vehicle), Lockheed Martin and Michoud will be in charge of the upper stage (or second stage) of the CLV, utilising MAF’s tank production systems.
However, following last week’s crucial design meeting, known as TIM Redlines, a critical ‘showstopper’ was discovered with the second stage, with sources involved speaking of a Tiger Team being called, aligned with a group of hugely experienced former Saturn V/Apollo engineers, known as ‘grey beards’ to find a solution.
Sources note this problem – along with many other issues – will lead to a reconfiguration of the vehicle, thus moving away from the CLV being a 5 segment ‘stick’ configuration. (Articles on the CLV problems will follow – full information on L2)