Good week, bad week for Boeing

It was good news and bad news for Orbiter provider Boeing this week with another successful Space Shuttle mission but a gloomy horizon for the company’s hopes of gaining work on NASA’s Orion crew vehicle launcher Ares I.
Shuttle Atlantis’s STS-115 assembly mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is the first in four years and 2006 is the first year since 2002 that NASA has flown more than one mission in a year.
The last assembly mission was to install the Port one truss, which STS-115′s Port three, Port four truss was attached to last week.
If NASA successfully launches Shuttle Discovery on 14 December for STS-116 the space agency can face 2007 with renewed vigour.
Considering NASA regularly launched shuttles six or seven times a year in the 1990s the schedule for the reusable spaceplane’s last four years, of about four missions a year, is achievable.
While retirement for Shuttle is beginning to look like a smooth wind down Boeing’s hopes of winning NASA’s Ares I upper stage contract must have withered when they heard about the competition.
The announcement of the team of Ares I first stage integrator ATK, Orion crew and service module prime contractor Lockheed Martin and upper stage main engine provider Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne must have had Boeing executives putting their heads in their hands.
The ATK led Lockheed, P&W dream team simply isn’t going to be beaten by anyone. Two of the companies already have contracts with NASA for Ares I and the space agency announced earlier this year that its Lockheed managed Michoud Assembly Facility will build Ares I upper stage structures.
Despite the pride Boeing can feel about its Orbiter its longer term place in the space industry is looking decidedly weak.

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