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Tue, Dec 21, 2004

Northrop Grumman Tapped To Help NASA Go To Moon, Mars And Beyond

Company Offers New Ideas for Human and Robotic Space Exploration

NASA has selected six Northrop Grumman Corporation proposals valued at approximately $137 million over four years to develop human and robotic technologies that would have pivotal roles in its Vision for Space Exploration.

The awards cover a variety of company-proposed concepts to help NASA conduct sustainable and affordable exploration missions beyond low-Earth orbit. NASA's Office of Exploration Systems Research and Technology (ESR&T) is funding the proposals. Work is expected to begin in early 2005.

Examples of technologies the company will develop for the initiative include:

  • An insect-like robot to autonomously inspect and maintain exteriors of spacecraft, such as the Space Shuttle, International Space Station or the proposed Crew Exploration Vehicle. The six-legged robot would improve astronaut safety by reducing extravehicular activities.
  • A restowable, heat-resistant "skirt" that deploys around a spacecraft just before reentry. By slowing the spacecraft significantly, the skirt reduces heat damage to the spacecraft, giving NASA a cost-effective option to re-use major elements of the spacecraft for future exploration missions.
  • An engine for a "space ferry" that would carry people and cargo between the Lunar surface and Lunar orbit as needed. The engine would be re-fueled from materials mined on the moon, improving affordability by greatly decreasing the use of one-time, expendable equipment.

 "The selection of these proposals recognize that Northrop Grumman's fresh ideas and creative uses of existing technologies are part of the 'new thinking' that will be needed to meet the renewed challenge of space exploration," said Sonya Sepahban, Northrop Grumman Space Technology vice president and corporate lead executive for exploration systems research and technology. "We have a heritage of innovation that has delivered assured capabilities to many space programs, from the Pioneer spacecraft to the Chandra X-ray Observatory. We'll apply the same imaginative approaches that'll help open new frontiers and make new discoveries as NASA charts a new course through the cosmos," she added.

In addition to the three previously described, other company proposals the company will pursue under the NASA awards include:

  • Small, easily producible phased-array antennas for satellites using a low-cost electrically scanned array. This could reduce these antennas by 10 times in cost and size while providing extremely fast communications for space, ground and exploration vehicles.
  • An "open systems," health-management architecture that will demonstrate new ways to monitor and manage, on an integrated basis, the health, status and resource availability of the major subsystems required to operate and maintain a space exploration system.
  • A family of lightweight, self-cleaning, anti-contamination coatings to address dust mitigation requirements for future moon and Mars missions.

 "The maturation of these key technologies will help NASA reach its goal of implementing an integrated space exploration architecture that's technically achievable, logistically supportable and economically sustainable well into the future," said Doug Young, Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems' director of space systems and corporate lead executive for Project Constellation. "We will continue to identify additional critical technologies that will be needed as NASA extends its space exploration initiative to Mars and beyond."

FMI: www.northgrum.com

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