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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Orion Changes Add Years To Design Phase

NASA has modified its contract with Lockheed Martin Corp. of Littleton, Colo., to design, test and build the Orion crew exploration vehicle.

The updated contract contains three significant changes, NASA says. Two years have been added to the design phase. Two test flights of Orion's launch abort system have been added. And production of a pressurized cargo carrier for the International Space Station has been deleted from the initial design phase, the space agency says.

NASA says it continues work to ensure a smooth transition from the space shuttle program to the Constellation program. This is demonstrated in a fourth element of the contract modification that provides for use of surplus raw materials, such as aluminum-lithium ingots now used in the construction of space shuttle fuel tanks, for Orion, the agency says.

"NASA and Lockheed have been working together as a team during the past six months to iron out many critical design and schedule details," says Skip Hatfield, manager the Orion Project at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This contract update will synchronize our spending plan with the rest of the Constellation Program."

NASA awarded the Orion prime contract to Lockheed Martin on Aug. 31, 2006. At that time, the development portion of the contract was valued at $3.9 billion with a period of performance through December 2011. This contract modification, in the amount of $385 million, brings the totalvalue to approximately $4.3 billion and adjusts the development period of performance through December 2013, the space agency says.

This update is the result of a NASA request for engineering change proposal issued on Dec. 15, 2006. Lockheed Martin's proposal was received on March 7. The contract modification was signed April 20, says NASA.

The modification reflects continuing progress on Orion's development, including program formulation and systems assessments addressing the rocket, ground infrastructure and all other elements necessary for a successful first launch. The period of performance now matches the evolving NASA budget landscape, the agency says.

"The Orion team has made some critical decisions that will maximize theperformance and flexibility of this spacecraft," says Jeff Hanley, manager of the Constellation program at Johnson. "This spacecraft will be a cornerstone of America's human exploration of the solar system by a new generation of explorers, and these changes and additional tests will ensure that it is robust enough to accomplish its missions."

Meanwhile, work progresses as planned on the contract. NASA and Lockheed Martin have completed Orion's systems requirements review and aremoving toward a systems design review scheduled in August, NASA says.

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