Boeing Wins NASA Rocket Contract to Return Astronauts to the Moon

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Boeing Wins NASA Rocket Contract
By ANDY PASZTOR
August 28, 2007 5:32 p.m.

LOS ANGELES -- A team led by Boeing Co. won a hotly contested contract, which could end up being worth around $1 billion, to build the upper stage of the Ares rocket the U.S. hopes will be a major element in future manned space exploration efforts.

In snaring the initial $514.7 million job, Boeing and its partners beat out a team led by Alliant Techsystems Inc., which already has a $1.8 billion contract to design and build the rocket's lower solid-rocket boosters. By edging out rivals with more current rocket-production work, including for the space shuttle, Boeing assured itself a piece of the multibillion dollar Constellation program managed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to return astronauts to moon by 2020.

Alliant had argued that its manufacturing background and previous investment in production facilities offered a lower cost alternative.

"Boeing will apply its best practices in program management and lean manufacturing principles from across the company to ensure that we produce the safest, lowest-cost and most reliable upper stage for NASA," said Roger A. Krone, president of the Network and Space Systems operation of Boeing's Integrated Defense Systems unit.

The award is significant because it puts in place last major piece of NASA's manned exploration drive, before contracts are awarded perhaps in the next decade to develop and build a lunar lander. Boeing previously lost out to a team led by Lockeed Martin Corp. for the lead role in designing the so-called Orion crew-exploration vehicle intended to take astronauts into orbit and beyond.

In a statement, Boeing said it will produce from two to six upper stages a year during regular production, depending on NASA requirements. The initial phase of the contract also calls for several flight-test production units. If all options of the cost-plus performance contract are exercised through 2017, Boeing could produce as many as 23 upper stages.

The winning team includes the Hamilton Sundstrand unit of United Technologies Corp., Moog Inc., Northrop Grumman Corp. and an existing joint venture for Pentagon rockets between Lockheed and Boeing.

Write to Andy Pasztor at andy.pasztor@wsj.com