The National Aeronautics and Space Administration yesterday awarded its first contracts for the design of a permanent, $8 billion space station to six aerospace industry teams led by Boeing Co., Martin Marietta Corp., General Electric Co., RCA Inc., the Rocketdyne division of Rockwell International Corp. and TRW Inc.
The contracts, which could be worth an estimated $114 million, will be signed in the next few weeks so that the contractors can begin work on their designs by April 15. The contracts are due to run 21 months, at which time NASA will ask competing teams of contractors to submit final designs and bids on the development and construction of the space station, which is to be placed in earth orbit between 1993 and 1994.
NASA did not award contracts yesterday for the design of the structural framework connecting the space station modules, which also includes a spaceport to be used by the shuttle ferrying passengers and supplies from Earth, and the ports that astronauts will use when they go spacewalking.
Valued at $27 million, these are the largest of the four design contracts NASA has put up for bid. They have been held up by NASA to reconsider bids by three industry teams.
The teams competing for these contracts are led by Lockheed Corp., McDonnell Douglas Corp. and Rockwell. NASA said it will continue to negotiate with all three, then award contracts to two of the three industry teams before work starts on April 15.
Teams led by Boeing and Martin-Marietta won contracts that could be worth $24 million apiece to design the pressurized modules in which astronauts manning the space station will work and live. The loser in this contract bidding was a 16-firm team led by General Dynamics Corp.
Contracts worth as much as $10 million apiece were won by teams led by General Electric and RCA, the only two teams that bid on the contract to design robot-controlled platforms that will fly around the space station performing repairs and heavy maintenance. These contracts also include design work on scientific instruments to be attached to the outside of the space station.
A fourth set of contracts worth as much as $6 million each was awarded to two industry teams led by Rocketdyne and TRW to design the systems that will provide electricity to the space station. The loser here was a team of 13 companies led by Garrett Corp.
NASA spokesman William J. O'Donnell explained that multiple winners were announced in each design category so that NASA eventually can choose the best design for the final development and construction phase of each contract.
"NASA will sit down now and negotiate prices with each of the design winners," O'Donnell said. "We fully expect work to begin on all contracts by April 15."