NASA’s Exploration Systems Progress Report
NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate in Washington has issued a Request for Information. It asks the aerospace industry for input regarding the strategy of a key element of a new spacecraft intended to lift American explorers toward the moon and Mars.
The component is the second or upper stage of the Crew Launch Vehicle, the successor to the space shuttle and the anticipated flagship in NASA’s next-generation space fleet.
The upper stage is in development by the Constellation Systems Launch Vehicles Project Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. The upper stage component is expected to be propelled by a J-2X engine fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen. The J-2X is an evolved and improved version of the powerful upper stage engine that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn 1B and Saturn V rockets to the moon.
In the request NASA encourages respondents to offer ideas to anticipated technical and business challenges. NASA would like to know the possible benefits from combining proposed avionics or on-board electrical flight controls and guidance systems into the procurement of overall upper-stage production support.
NASA also seeks feedback related to design and specification sharing among participants, commonality of design tools and software, methods of reducing component life-cycle costs, and seamless transition of contractual arrangements.
The request is intended solely to obtain information that will help NASA define its upper stage acquisition strategy development effort. NASA will not issue any contracts based on this request.
An update to development design and strategy progress followed by a question and answer session is scheduled for industry during an open house event at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, April 18-19. Michoud is one of the facilities selected to manufacture and assemble the Crew Launch Vehicle upper stage.
The Crew Launch Vehicle is part of NASA’s mission to develop a cost-effective, next-generation space transportation system. The system will, in keeping with the Vision for Space Exploration, safely and reliably take human explorers to the moon, Mars and on into the solar system.
In addition to its primary mission – carrying crews of four to six astronauts into Earth orbit – the vehicle’s 25-ton payload capacity also may be used to bring resources and supplies to the International Space Station or to exploration teams traveling to and from the moon.
Crew transportation to the space station is planned for no later than 2014. The first lunar excursion is scheduled as early as 2020. The Crew Launch Vehicle effort is led for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate by the Constellation Systems Launch Vehicles Project Office at Marshall.