Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) of Japan has reached preliminary agreement with Boeing to help develop a powerplant for the Delta IV Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle.

The company is also hoping to win manufacturing contracts with Airbus Industrie.

Mitsubishi has traditionally been a major defence contractor, but it is looking for new business as the country's defence budget continues to be squeezed and the number of large defence contracts decreases.

MHI is to build parts of the Delta IV family's Common Booster Core engine, the first US-developed cryogenic first stage engine since the Space Shuttle powerplant.

The deal is the first time a Japanese firm has become a full partner in a US space development programme.

The aerospace firm is expected to contribute expertise gained through developing the country's H2 launcher. Details of the contract remain to be worked out, but engine development is scheduled to begin this year.

The Japanese manufacturer also hopes to win aircraft component manufacturing contracts from Airbus Industrie this year, aiming eventually to participate in the European consortium's planned A3XX large airliner programme.

MHI already manufactures some aircraft components for Boeing - it builds fuselage sections for the 767, as well as tailcones for the MD-11.

Source: Flight International