Boeing is expected to submit a proposal to NASA later this year to supply cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) using the European Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV, right), which would be carried by the US company's Delta IV expendable launch vehicle.
Preliminary studies over the last 12 months have given Boeing confidence that the ATV, which can carry 7.6t of cargo, is compatible with the Delta IV.
The company had to obtain US State Department approval to discuss use of the ATV with European launch provider Arianespace. Although the ATV is manufactured by Europe's EADS Space Transportation, Arianespace would be the supplier. The Paris-based company has a US subsidiary and it has been involved in the discussions.
"NASA needs a capability for up and down mass to the ISS once the shuttle is retired. The ATV would launch from Cape Canaveral on the Delta IV. We would do back-up with an Ariane 5ES [ATV launch variant] from Kourou [in French Guiana]," says Clayton Mowry, president of Arianespace's US subsidiary.
The first ATV to supply cargo to the ISS is expected to fly in March next year on an Ariane 5ES from Kourou (Flight International, 22-28 March).
The Arianespace-supported Boeing proposal will be in response to a request for proposals for ISS supply that NASA is expected to issue by the third quarter. This latest involvement of Europeans in US space operations follows EADS Space Transportation joining Lockheed Martin's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) team and Italy's Alenia Spazio joining the Northrop Grumman/Boeing CEV team.