NASA on Oct. 31 awarded a $206.5 million contract to a longtime contractor, United Space Alliance, to provide services for the next generation of its space exploration program.
The contract will provide mission and flight crew logistics, training, and flight support for the International Space Station and subsequent space exploration activities after the space shuttle program is ended.
"This primary contract, which starts tomorrow [Nov. 1] and continues through the end of the fiscal year 2011, will be the primary one for planning, training and the flying of the new Constellation series of spacecrafts that will replace the space shuttles when they are retired from service in 2010," NASA spokesperson Kelly Humphries told eWEEK.
The Constellation Aries I (crew transportation) and Aries V (cargo) space ships are being designed without wings-unlike the space shuttles-because they will be used for new missions to the moon and eventually to Mars, Humphries said.
United Space Alliance, based in Houston, has been NASA's primary provider of these services since the mid-'90s, Humphries said. Prior to that time, NASA granted individual contracts for the large set of services needed to get space vehicles into their missions.
The two-year, 11-month Integrated Mission Operations Contract covers ground-based human spaceflight operations capability development and execution, including support for mission planning and preparation, crew and flight controller training, and real-time mission execution.
The cost-plus-award-fee contract provides for an optional one-year extension, which would increase the total value of the contract to $371 million. The extension period, if exercised, would be from Oct. 1, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2012.
United Space Alliance is a space-flight operations company that is a joint venture, owned equally by Boeing and Lockheed Martin. It was established in August 1995 as a Limited Liability Company. The company employs about 10,000 people in Texas, Florida, Alabama and the Washington, D.C., area.