Griffin postpones CEV downselect

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Choice between Lockheed Martin or Northrop Grumman delayed until September following specification changes

Selection of the winning team for the development of NASA’s Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) has been delayed again, to the end of the third quarter 2006, NASA administrator Michael Griffin has told the US Congress.

NASA initially planned to choose between teams led by Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman in March, but that was later postponed until 7 August (Flight International, 17-23 January).

News of the latest delay emerged as Griffin was testifying to Congress on NASA’s FY2007 budget request. “NASA is currently seeking industry proposals for the CEV and we have considerable incentives for an industry bidder to propose a planned development for the CEV as close to 2010 as possible,” Griffin said. “However, NASA cannot begin evaluating those proposals until next month, with a currently planned contract award in late summer, early fall 2006,” he added. NASA was unavailable for comment on the delay or the development incentives.

The bid submission date for the two competitors is 20 March. That is still the deadline but changes to the CEV requirements, including an outer mould line diameter modification, have led to a second date of 20 April for responses to the additional requirements.

■ NASA’s Ames Research Center in California has begun windtunnel-testing the CEV’s crew module to simulate the airflow and temperature changes the capsule may experience in atmospheric flight during re-entry. A capsule scale model was tested inside the centre’s 11ft (3.35m) tunnel.

ROB COPPINGER / LONDON