Boeing wants international team for Project Constellation, but needs a change in the law to allow it to happen

Boeing is in talks to assemble an international team for the US space exploration programme, Project Constellation, although initial contracts will be limited to US industry by a policy prohibiting NASA research funds going overseas.

"They are working to fix that problem," says Chuck Allen, Boeing programme manager, space exploration systems. "[NASA associate administrator for exploration systems] Craig Steidle says this absolutely must be an international effort. They just don't know how to get there yet," he says.

While eventual agreement on international participation will require government-to-government negotiations, "we are not waiting", says Allen. "We are trying to put an industry-to-industry team together from around the world. We want the best value. Not all of it is within Boeing and not all of it is within the USA. We must have international participation."

The European Space Agency (ESA) is working under a two-year preparatory space exploration programme to define proposals that will be presented to Europe's space ministers in the second half of next year. "We have our own funds to spend," says Marco Caporicci, head of ESA's re-entry and human transportation division.

NASA plans to award multiple study contracts next month, under which companies will propose exploration system architectures and concepts for the crew exploration vehicle (CEV). These will be limited to US industry, says Allen. A request for proposals for human and robotic exploration technologies is due this week, leading to study contract awards in September.

Initial draft requirements for the Spiral 1 CEV, for human orbital missions beginning in 2014, are expected within two months, leading to a request for proposals in January and contract awards a year from now. Allen says NASA plans to downselect to two CEV competitors in 2006 and to pick one in 2008, after flight demonstrations.

Europe is concerned about the launch demands for space exploration, and the need for a heavylift booster. Caporicci describes as "discouraging" an ESA study indicating it would require around 40 launches to stage a manned Moon mission using Ariane 5 for cargo and Soyuz for crew. "We definitely need a heavylift booster," he says.

For CEV, Boeing "will try to make the launch solution as robust as it can be, with as many potential suppliers as we can have. We are not assuming it has to be a US launcher, or a heavy vehicle". Russian involvement in the programme is "probably essential", he says.



Source: Flight International