WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 /PRNewswire/ -- McDonnell Douglas (NYSE: MD) and Boeing (NYSE: BA) today announced that the two aerospace companies have agreed to work on the design and development of a next-generation reusable launch vehicle that could economically replace the aging Space Shuttle fleet, and ultimately open a new era in the commercial use of space.
The two major aerospace titans -- McDonnell Douglas is a leading U.S. defense contractor, and Boeing is the largest manufacturer of commercial jetliners in the world -- will combine their expertise to compete for the first phase of NASA's upcoming effort to design and develop an advanced technology demonstration vehicle called the X-33. A cooperative government-industry project, the X-33 is to pave the way for a new era of space launch vehicles that avoid costly and complex ground support in favor of simpler, jetliner-like operations.
McDonnell Douglas, through its Huntington Beach, Calif.-based McDonnell Douglas Aerospace unit, and Boeing through its Seattle-based Defense & Space Group, are combining efforts to win a 13-month Phase 1 contract.
During Phase 1, the companies would evaluate new technologies, develop design concepts for the X-33, and devise the business structure and operations plans under which the vehicle, and potentially its operational successor, would be jointly developed by industry and NASA. The Phase 1 effort could lead to the selection by NASA in 1996 of a single industry team to design, manufacture and test the X-33 between 1996-99.
"The joint effort of America's two leading aerospace companies will put their unsurpassed, combined technological expertise and commercial business experience to most effective use," said McDonnell Douglas' Dr. William Gaubatz, program manager.
The two companies will pursue the X-33 on a partnership basis, sharing risks, costs and profit. McDonnell Douglas' Gaubatz will be program manager, and Livingston Holder Jr. of Boeing will be deputy program manager. Their task will be to devise a reusable vehicle that requires only aircraft-like turn-around time between missions. In addition to meeting national needs for improved access to space, and an affordable, reliable payload delivery system, the X-33 may also spur significant new commercial space opportunities.
"A new, reusable launch vehicle is an important step in protecting our nation's lead in space technology," said Boeing's Holder. "But it can also help us regain the lead in commercial launching, a market once dominated by the U.S." Frequently fierce competitors, Boeing and McDonnell Douglas are the two largest makers of commercial and military jet transport aircraft in the United States. Both are significant contractors in the space industry, with McDonnell Douglas commanding a worldwide market for its Delta II launch vehicle and Boeing leading the industry team on NASA's 14-nation International Space Station program.
"When it comes to developing complex flying machines that operate efficiently and cost-effectively, there is no match in the world for the experience on this team," said Gaubatz.
NASA is expected to release the X-33 Cooperation Agreement Notice (CAN), similar to a request for proposal but featuring greater cost and risk sharing between NASA and the selected contractors, by the end of the year. Contractors will likely have 60 days to respond to the CAN.