Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin join up versus Boeing as NASA brings forward crew rescue requirement

Northrop Grumman is to join the Lockheed Martin team competing for full-scale development of NASA's Orbital Space Plane (OSP), reducing the contest to a two-horse race with Boeing.

The move follows NASA's decision to bring forward the requirement for an International Space Station crew rescue capability by two years to 2008. Orbital Sciences, Northrop Grumman's partner since 2000, is in discussions on joining both teams on a non-exclusive basis.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman/Orbital Sciences are developing OSP requirements and defining architecture concepts under separate contracts awarded in April. Northrop Grumman will complete its contract, then become a Lockheed Martin subcontractor. NASA plans to issue a request for proposals for OSP development in late November, with contract award in August next year (Flight International, 30 September-6 October).

Lockheed Martin will be system prime contractor and Northrop Grumman principal subcontractor. The teaming "will help NASA reduce the schedule and cost risks of the accelerated OSP programme", says Michael Coats, vice-president Lockheed Martin Advanced Space Transportation. The OSP, to be launched on a Boeing Delta IV or Lockheed Martin Atlas V, was originally scheduled to begin crew rescue operations in 2010, and two-way crew transfers in 2012.

Orbital Sciences intends to be a member of both OSP teams. "We are in discussion with both teams on a non-exclusive basis," the company says. Orbital teamed with Northrop Grumman in late 2000 to pursue NASA's second-generation reusable launch vehicle programme, which was restructured towards the end of last year and divided into the near-term OSP and longer-term Next Generation Launch Technology programmes.

Source: Flight International