NASA has assured Boeing it intends to award the Ares I crew launch vehicle's upper stage production contract this August despite budget problems, the company said during its competition team's announcement last week.

Boeing is leading four small specialist suppliers and Northrop Grumman, Hamilton Sundstrand, United Space Alliance and United Launch Alliance. The contract is for up to six upper stages per year and over 20 during Ares I's life.

The August date was in doubt after the US Congress cut NASA's 2007 fiscal year budget by $545 million to $16.6 billion in February. NASA's new 2007 plan may be made public this week. Boeing's competitor is the ATK, Lockheed Martin and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne team, announced last September. Boeing says it waited until now to make its announcement to match exactly its team's capabilities to NASA's upper-stage requirements, following the 23 February upper-stage request for proposals. Boeing's four small suppliers are logistics specialist Chickasaw Nation Industries, Summa Technology, roll control system developer Orion Propulsion and propulsion contributor Moog.

Source: Flight International