Boeing and Northrop Grumman forge space alliance

Joint pitch for NASA Moon gig

Boeing and Northrop Grumman have inked a memorandum of agreement which will see the two aerospace giants join forces to compete for the contract to build NASA's Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) - part of the Agency's Constellation project to send robotic and human missions to the Moon and beyond.

Boeing impression of how the CEV launch vehicle might lookThe CEV - which is based on the tried-and-trusted Apollo command module concept - will be developed and deployed in stages, known as "spirals". Spiral 1 - for which Boeing and Northrop Grumman are to assemble a joint team - will test the CEV's capability as an Earth-orbit vehicle. Later spirals will extend the scope of the project to the Moon, and then possibly to Mars. The NASA blurb - which estimates first flight tests in 2008, further unmanned tests in 2011 leading to full operational commissioning in 2014 - states:

In the simplest terms, the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) is a vehicle to transport human crews beyond low-Earth orbit and back again. The CEV must be designed to serve multiple functions and operate in a variety of environments. For example, the CEV or versions of the CEV could operate for extended-duration in Earth orbit, in close proximity to or on the surface of the Moon and Mars.

In the Northrop Grumman press release, sector vice president for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems, Gary Ervin, says: "A Northrop Grumman - Boeing team will bring together two proven leaders in the development, production and successful deployment of reliable, advanced technology space systems. Northrop Grumman's systems integration skills, technology innovation and track-record of superior space systems performance, coupled with Boeing's extensive experience in human space flight offers NASA a team that can develop and deliver an innovative, highly affordable CEV to serve the nation's space exploration needs safely and reliably well into the future."

Northrop Grumman will take the helm during Spiral 1 as team leader and main contractor. For Spiral 2, Boeing will lead during development of "human lunar CEV transportation system elements". Boeing vice president Chuck Allen hailed the alliance as recognition that "the nation's Vision for Space Exploration and the CEV system development will require as much innovation in program and business management solutions as it requires in technology maturation and engineering." He added: "Collectively, Boeing and Northrop Grumman would offer NASA more than 90 years of combined experience in development and operation of complex, integrated manned and unmanned aeronautic and space flight systems and platforms, including in every major US human space flight program ranging since inception through ISS."

The competition to win the CEV development contract kicks off in 2005. ®

Related stories

NASA pumps $400m into nuclear space probe
US deploys F/A-22 Raptor
Boeing and IBM team up for defence
US throws $1bn at unmanned attack aircraft

Sponsored: Today’s most dangerous security threats