Boeing may be best equipped to provide two cryogenic upper stages derived from the Delta 4 rocket to power the agency’s Orion capsule on a test flight around the moon in 2017 and send astronauts on a voyage to lunar orbit in 2021, according to documents posted on a federal government procurement website.

The space agency issued a sole-source award to Boeing on April 27 for a feasibility study on the compatibility of the Delta Cryogenic Second Stage, or DCSS, with the Space Launch System, a heavy-lift rocket designed to dispatch astronaut crews on expeditions to the moon, asteroids, Mars, and other deep space destinations.

The $2.4 million contract also covers an evaluation of the upper stage against NASA’s human-rating requirements. Boeing will also determine what modifications are needed for the Delta 4 second stage to fly with the Space Launch System.

The Delta 4′s hydrogen-fueled upper stage includes an RL10B-2 engine built by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, or PWR. The engine generates 24,750 pounds of thrust and has flawlessly flown on all 19 Delta 4 missions to date.

Space agency officials declined comment on the upper stage acquisition until they formally select a procurement strategy.

But NASA released a justification document for the sole-source study award to Boeing, outlining internal market research and a public request for information solicitation which indicated the Delta 4 second stage is the only propulsion system available to meet NASA requirements.

“The DCSS appears to be the only solution mature enough to meet the requirements of the government within the timeframe needed to support the government’s need date for initial delivery,” NASA officials wrote in the justification document.

In a presolicitation notice posted May 3 on the Federal Business Opportunities website, the Agency “determined that the DCSS is the only means available to support the immediate in-space propulsion needs of the SLS.”

Boeing maintains the design data and manufacturing skills to modify the Delta 4 upper stage for the Space Launch System, according to NASA. United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, currently builds the Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rocket fleets.

NASA is accepting proposals and quotes from other rocket contractors through May 18, and the agency will use the data to determine whether to conduct a competitive procurement for the SLS upper stage.

Read the entire story at Spaceflight Now!

Posted by: Soderman/NLSI Staff

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