WASHINGTON, 13 Dec. 2007.NASA has selected The Boeing Company of Huntsville, Ala., as the prime contractor to produce, deliver, and install avionics systems for the Ares I rocket that will launch the Orion crew exploration vehicle into orbit. The selection is the final major contract award for Ares I.
The Ares I launch vehicle is a key component of the Constellation Program, which will send humans to the moon by 2020 to set up a lunar outpost.
Boeing will support the NASA design team leading the development of the Ares I avionics components. The company also will develop and acquire avionics hardware for the rocket and assemble, inspect, and integrate the avionics system components on the upper stage.
Components will be manufactured by the prime contractor's suppliers across the country. Final integration and checkout will take place at NASA's Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana.
The avionics are the "brains" of the Ares I and will provide guidance, navigation, and control for the rocket until it reaches orbit. The avionics system is responsible for managing vehicle health and reporting it to flight controllers based on a sequence of timed events, such as engine shutdown and first stage separation.
The instrument unit that contains the bulk of the avionics will be situated between the two-stage Ares I rocket and the adapter that joins Ares I to the Orion spacecraft. The system consists of onboard computers, flight controls, communications equipment and other instruments and software for monitoring and adjusting the rocket's speed and position during flight.
Boeing will provide one instrument unit avionics ground test article, three flight test units, and six production flight units to support integrated flight tests and missions through 2016.
The Ares I first stage will be a five-segment solid rocket booster. The upper, second stage of the rocket will consist of a J-2X liquid-oxygen, liquid-hydrogen main engine, a new upper stage fuel tank, and the instrument unit avionics.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Ares Project for NASA's Constellation Program, based at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.