6 Firms Awarded NASA Deep-Space Habitat Concept Devt Contracts

NASA has awarded six companies separate contracts worth up to $65 million combined to help the agency research concepts and develop ground prototypes for deep space habitats.

Boeing (NYSE: BA), Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), Orbital ATK (NYSE:OA),  Sierra Nevada, Bigelow Aerospace and NanoRacks were chosen through the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships-2 initiative, the agency said Wednesday.

The six companies will perform work over a two-year period and contribute at least 30 percent of the overall program cost, NASA noted.

NASA sought proposals for the second batch of NextSTEP partners in April to perform research and development work on deep space habitation systems, advanced propulsion technologies and small satellites.

“The next human exploration capabilities needed beyond the Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule are deep space, long duration habitation and in-space propulsion, ” said Jason Crusan, NASA director of advanced exploration systems.

“We are now adding focus and specifics on the deep space habitats where humans will live and work independently for months or years at a time, without cargo supply deliveries from Earth, ” Crusan added.

Bigelow Aerospace, Boeing, Lockheed and Orbital ATK compose the initial batch of the agency’s NextSTEP partners.

NextSTEP-2 efforts will support commercial investment in low-Earth orbit, operational deep space habitation for missions near the moon as well as the planned expedition to Mars in the 2020s,  according to NASA.

The prototypes will be developed to help establish design standards, common interfaces and requirements and mitigate risks for the final flight systems.

The agency also looks to collaborate with international partners to achieve deep-space habitation goals.

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