NASA has launched a competition to provide avionics for its new Ares I crew launch vehicle, which will transport the Orion crew exploration vehicle to low Earth orbit.

Honeywell, teamed with Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, with Dynetics, are among bidders for the avionics, which will be mounted on the Ares I's upper stage to provide first- and second-stage guidance, navigation and control during ascent. Proposals are due by 30 July, with contract award expected in November.

The selected team will provide engineering support to NASA during the design phase and then manufacture avionics to support development and flight programmes to the end of 2016.

The avionics instrument unit will be installed in the Ares I at NASA's Michoud facility in Louisiana, where the booster will be partly assembled, says the space agency.

The Ares I first stage is being developed by Alliant Techsystems (ATK), and the company has teamed with Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin and engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne to bid for production of the second stage. They are in competition with a Boeing -led consortium.

ATK says its team is using company funds to reduce development risk by fabricating the common bulkhead dome that separates the fuel and oxidizer compartments in the propellant tank demonstrating composites damage detection and hot-fire testing a monopropellant reaction control system.

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