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NASA Casts Field Centers’ Roles for CEV

WASHINGTON -- NASA announced Monday the rolesits 10 regional field centers will play in the development of the CrewExploration Vehicle (CEV) and the related launcher the U.S. space agency hopes to have in service no later than 2014.

"This isthe first wave of center assignments for getting Constellation rolling," saidJeff Hanley, NASA's Constellation program manager. Constellation is NASA's namefor the multibillion-dollar effort to build the CEV, launchers and landingspacecraft needed to put U.S. astronauts on the Moon by 2020.

NASAexpects to select a prime contractor in late August or early September todesign and build the CEV with a lot of help from its field centers. LockheedMartin is competing against the team of Northrop Grumman and Boeing to be theprime contractor for the project.

The agencyhas also initiated a number of contracts in recent months in order to getindustry and its field centers working on the development of the Crew LaunchVehicle, a largely expendable rocket with a main stage derived from the spaceshuttle's solid rocket booster.

Asexpected, Glenn Research Center in Cleveland was assigned responsibility fordeveloping the CEV Service Module that will accommodate the six-personcapsule's main propulsion system. Glenn was also assigned responsibility for aCEV adapter needed to mate the spacecraft to its launcher.

Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., will lead the early work on the CEV's thermal protection system, helping NASAselect the heat shields that will be used to keep the capsule from burning upduring its return trip through the Earth's atmosphere. Ames also was given newresponsibilities in meeting the information technology needs of NASA'sConstellation program.

Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., has been assigned lead responsibility for flight testing the CEV'slaunch abort system, a safety feature designed to separate the CEV from itsbooster in the event of a launch emergency. Handley said Dryden was chosen forits expertise in conducting flight tests.

For help indesigning the CEV launch abort system, NASA is turning to Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Specifically, Langley engineers will oversee and conductindependent analysis of the CEV prime contractor's development of a launchabort system.

Overallresponsibility for the CEV remains at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

MarshallSpace Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala., is leading development of the CrewLaunch Vehicle, with Stennis Space Center in Mississippi responsible fortesting engines for both the crew launcher and an unmanned heavy-lift launcherthe agency hopes to get started around the end of the decade.

Marshall has also picked up in recent weeksresponsibility for managing the agency's lunar robotics program. ScottHorowitz, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems, said puttingMarshall in charge of the Lunar Precursor and Robotics Program will enablegreater synergy between some of NASA's early lunar robotics missions anddevelopment of the descent stage for a lunar lander that will carry astronautsand unmanned payloads, such as power plants, habitats and the like, to thesurface of the Moon.

Florida's Kennedy Space Center, the chosen launch site for the CEV, will host NASA's Ground Operations Project, helpingthe agency plan and prepare for launching and operating the space shuttle'ssuccessor.

GoddardSpace Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., will help the Constellation Program bydoing communications, navigation and avionics work.

The JetPropulsion Laboratory, the Pasadena, Calif.-based center responsible for all ofthe agency's robotic landers of late, will lend its expertise in roboticsurface operations to the NASA's human exploration efforts and help lead theConstellation Program's systems engineering and integration software andavionics team along with Goddard.

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Brian Berger

Brian Berger is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews, a bi-weekly space industry news magazine, and He joined SpaceNews covering NASA in 1998 and was named Senior Staff Writer in 2004 before becoming Deputy Editor in 2008. Brian's reporting on NASA's 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident and received the Communications Award from the National Space Club Huntsville Chapter in 2019. Brian received a bachelor's degree in magazine production and editing from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.