Northrop Grumman is to take the lead in competing for NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) under a joint team with Boeing that will also bid for other elements of the Project Constellation space exploration initiative. As the programme moves out of low-Earth orbit for the Moon and Mars, Boeing will take over the lead.

Northrop Grumman has been nominated to be prime contractor for Spiral 1 of the CEV because Boeing will be busy with returning the Space Shuttle to flight and completing assembly of the International Space Station (ISS) during the critical first years of Project Constellation. "We have to protect our commitment to those programmes," says Chuck Allen, Boeing vice-present, space exploration systems.

NASA expects to issue a request for proposals for the Spiral 1 CEV early next year, leading to award of two prototype contracts later in 2005 and downselect in 2008, says Doug Young, Northrop Grumman lead executive for Project Constellation. The CEV is to fly uncrewed in 2011 and crewed in 2014.

ISS assembly is scheduled to be complete and the Shuttle retired by 2010, freeing up Boeing system integration resources to take over as prime contractor for the Spiral 2 human lunar transport CEV, and for subsequent spirals going beyond the Moon.

Northrop Grumman teamed with Boeing after talks with Lockheed Martin, its partner on the precursor Orbital Space Plane and likely competitor for CEV. They plan to finalise the agreement within a few weeks and are in discussions with other potential team members, says Young. The companies have separate contracts to define CEV concepts and exploration architectures, but will now present consolidated results.



Source: Flight International