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NASA Heavy Lift Launch System and Propulsion Technology Request for Information

Status Report From: Marshall Space Flight Center
Posted: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

image NASA RFI Related to Heavy Lift

Summary

On May 3, 2010, NASA will issue a Request for Information (RFI) seeking general information regarding potential launch or space transportation architectures (expendable, reusable, or a hybrid system) that could be utilized by multiple customers (e.g. NASA, commercial and other Government agencies). The RFI also will solicit information regarding propulsion system characteristics; technology challenges related to liquid chemical propulsion systems; as well as innovative methods to manage a heavy-lift development program to include effective and affordable business practices. The RFI will be open to the broad space community, including commercial, other Government agencies and academia. Information obtained from the RFI will be used for planning and acquisition-strategy development for current heavylift planning activities, as outlined in the Conference Report to FY 2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117).

In the near future, NASA also is preparing to issue a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), soliciting industry assistance in helping NASA to examine the trade space of potential heavy-lift launch and space transfer vehicle concepts. The BAA will focus on achieving affordability, operability, reliability, and commonality with multiple users (other Government, commercial, science, international partners, etc.) at the system and subsystem levels. A major thrust of this activity -- which will utilize some funds identified specifically for heavy-lift activities in the aforementioned Conference Report -- will be the development of space launch propulsion technologies.

Both procurement activities are intended to find more affordable options for a heavy-lift vehicle that could be achieved earlier than 2015 - the earliest date that the currently envisioned heavy-lift system could begin work, based on funding provided in the FY 2010 budget.

Background

As a part of current program development activities, NASA continues to examine the trade space with regard to heavy-lift vehicles for the next-generation of human spaceflight system.

For example, in January 2009, NASA issued a solicitation for Ares V heavy lift design trades. The solicitation, which was based on the Constellation Program Ares V Point of Departure architecture, was focused on five elements - Shroud Element, Earth Departure Stage Element, Core Stage Element, Avionics Element, and First Stage Element - with major deliverables of requirements assessment, trades and analyses, and identification of risks and opportunities. NASA received several proposals as part of this Request for Proposals (RFP). However, the Agency placed this procurement activity on hold pending outcome of the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee and a further assessment of the Administration's FY 2011 budget request. Then in March 2010, NASA cancelled the Ares V RFP, given the uncertainty of future for Ares V heavy lift design trade requirements and given the new direction for exploration outlined in the President's FY 2011 budget request. However, NASA took this action with the understanding that it would initiate new procurement actions, as needed, to assess future heavy-lift requirements for both the current Constellation Program as well as the pending FY 2011 budget request.

Additionally, last fall, NASA officials conducted an internal Heavy Lift Vehicle study that looked at alternate configurations to the Ares V baseline system. The goal of the study was to find ways to decrease cost, given that funding for heavy-lift development was constrained in the FY 2010 budget and as a result, development activities were delayed until 2015. Therefore, given this new reality, NASA initiated the Heavy Lift study to look at whether there were alternative heavy-lift configurations that would be more affordable and would be achievable sooner than the currently planned Ares V. Such efforts to accelerate schedule and achieve cost savings for a heavy-lift vehicle continue today, and the May 3 release of the RFI and the pending release of the BAA are the natural evolution of such planning efforts.

Please see the attached RFI for more details.

HEAVY LAUNCH AND PROPULSION TECHNOLOGY

Synopsis - May 04, 2010

General Information

Solicitation Number: N/A
Reference Number: RFI05042010PS40
Posted Date: May 04, 2010
FedBizOpps Posted Date: May 04, 2010
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: May 21, 2010
Current Response Date: May 21, 2010
Classification Code: A -- Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541712 - Research and Development in the Physical, Engineering, and Life Sciences (except Biotechnology)

Contracting Office Address

NASA/George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Procurement Office, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL 35812

Description

This notice is issued by the NASA/MSFC to post a Request for Information for Heavy Launch and Propulsion Technology via the internet, and solicit responses from interested parties.

Heavy Launch and Propulsion Technology - Request for Information

I. Background/Objective

NASA is initiating an innovative new path for space exploration which strengthens the technical capability to extend human and robotic presence throughout the solar system. NASA is taking a new approach to this long-term goal: by strengthening the technology development and propulsion system ground work to enable exploration of multiple potential destinations, including the Moon, asteroids, Lagrange points, and Mars and its environs. This strategic approach is designed to more efficiently further and sustain the course of human exploration. NASA is in the planning phase to develop strategies that will lead to a new U.S. developed chemical propulsion engine for a multi-use Heavy Launch Vehicle(s); demonstration of in-space chemical propulsion capabilities; and significant advancement in space launch propulsion technologies. The ultimate objective is to develop chemical propulsion technologies to support a more affordable and robust space transportation industry including human space exploration.

II. Technical Requirements

a. First-Stage Launch Propulsion: NASA’s efforts in this area will focus on development of a U.S. LOX/RP rocket engine with a minimum thrust of 1M lbs applicable to multiple users in the first stage of future launch vehicles to include a future heavy-lift rocket. In every aspect of the design, NASA will seek to incorporate features that will reduce manufacturing, production, and operating costs for this engine and total launch system costs.

b. In-Space Engine Demonstration: NASA will initiate development and flight testing of in-space engines. Areas of focus will include low-cost liquid oxygen/methane and liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen engines applicable to multiple users for different in-space applications. NASA will seek to incorporate features that will reduce manufacturing, production, and operating costs for this engine and total launch and space transfer system costs.

c. Foundational Propulsion Research: NASA will perform foundational research in chemical propulsion technologies in areas such as new or largely untested propellants, advanced propulsion materials and manufacturing techniques, combustion processes, and engine health monitoring and safety. NASA will engage industry and academia with the goal of encouraging a broad range of innovative approaches focusing on cost and reliability. This effort will develop the next generation of scientists and engineers in the space launch propulsion arena.

III. Market Research NASA strives to develop a comprehensive acquisition approach to invest in enabling technologies and provide new chemical propulsion engines. Industry involvement early in the development phase is essential for NASA to formulate a strategy to meet the national objectives of developing future chemical propulsion systems that are both affordable and used by multiple customers. Any resulting acquisition approach will utilize these guiding principles:

a. Affordability

b. Satisfy multiple customers

c. Maximize competition

d. Procure appropriate intellectual property

e. Leverage existing programs

f. Apply the appropriate set of performance measures and incentives.

g. Leverage existing industry programs.

h. Review all requirements from a zero-based approach.

i. Maximize the use of small businesses

V. Inputs Using the information above with the overall goal to provide low-cost chemical propulsion technologies and ultimately engines that will serve multiple customers, industry, academia, Internationals and other non-Government research organizations are invited to provide inputs in the following specific areas:

1. First Stage Launch Propulsion

a. Provide information regarding your potential launch or space transportation architectures that could meet multiple customer needs (e.g. NASA, DoD, and Commercial). Describe potential reference missions and any known barriers that NASA can reduce/eliminate through technology insertion; sharing of information, sharing of facilities; etc.

b. Provide your top level requirements including: affordability (low life cycle cost); safety (minimize catastrophic failures, loss of vehicle, etc,) and performance (thrust, ISP, throttle range if any, mass, etc.). Provide rationale as to how these requirements were derived.

c. Describe your approach to develop a high thrust LOX/RP engine, including potential use of precursor or prototype engine testing for multiple vehicle applications (to include non-Government) at an affordable cost, no later than 2020.

d. Identify how you would integrate this engine into a vehicle system at an affordable cost through test programs, ground demonstrations, and flight demonstrations.

e. Identify strategies to lower both fixed and variable costs to include reduced overhead; improved manufacturing processes; lower staffing; and elimination/tailoring of specific Government requirements. Describe methods to effectively manage to a lower per production unit cost (lot buys, design to cost, cost incentive structures, non-traditional business arrangements, anticipated business, sensitivity to business base, for example).

f. Describe how you would leverage any existing efforts to include hardware, designs, analysis, and facilities to save cost and accelerate schedule.

2. In-space Engine Demonstration

a. Provide information regarding your potential launch or space transportation architectures that could meet multiple customer needs (e.g. NASA, DoD, and Commercial). Describe potential reference missions and any known barriers that NASA can reduce/eliminate through technology insertion; sharing of information, sharing of facilities; etc.

b. Provide your top level requirements including: affordability (low life cycle cost); safety (minimize catastrophic failures, loss of vehicle, etc,) and performance (thrust, ISP, throttle range if any, mass, etc.). Provide rationale as to how these requirements were derived.

c. How would you develop and/or demonstrate LOX/CH4 and LOX/H2 engines for multiple vehicle applications (to include non-Government) for in-space applications at an affordable cost? Identify strategies to lower both fixed and variable costs to include reduced overhead; improved manufacturing processes; lower staffing; and elimination/tailoring of specific Government requirements. Describe methods to effectively manage to a lower per production unit cost (lot buys, design to cost, cost incentive structures, non-traditional business arrangements, anticipated business, sensitivity to business base, for example).

d. Describe how you would leverage any existing efforts to include hardware, designs, analysis, and facilities to save cost and accelerate schedule. Describe approaches for low-cost flights that demonstrate relevant critical capabilities.

e. Describe design reference missions and need dates specific to the different engines.

3. Foundational Propulsion Research

a. Provide general areas where you believe gaps exist in chemical propulsion technologies that could lead to game changing breakthroughs in mission affordability and capability. Chemical propulsion technologies include discipline focused research into such things as materials, manufacturing, combustion processes, and propellant chemistry, and other propulsion system elements (such as tanks, valves, feed lines, health management). Identify strategies for insertion of these technologies in new propulsion systems and also how to make them available to the Industry for multiple uses.

b. Describe methods to effectively manage the strategies for technology insertions, including non-traditional business arrangements.

c. Identify how you would plan to bring existing mid-level Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) to operational levels at an affordable cost through test programs, ground demonstrations, and flight demonstrations.

d. Describe how you would envision working with multiple customers (include DoD, NASA, and commercial) to identify top priority technologies and their associated payoffs.

e. Describe approaches for encouraging and developing the next generation of scientists and engineers in the space launch propulsion arena through outreach, partnerships, and direct involvement in the technology program.

f. Describe how you would leverage any existing efforts to include hardware, designs, analysis, and facilities to save cost and accelerate schedule. Identify any existing assets in which you require or obtain benefit to support the technology maturation in a timely, affordable, and efficient manner.

4. Program and Business Management NASA is seeking Industry inputs into methods to manage these programs to include effective and affordable business practices.

a. Describe processes for the overall management of the program to most effectively develop propulsion systems and technologies.

b. How would you propose to participate in systems analysis and assessments?

c. How would you propose to serve an advisory capacity for the program providing input on content and objectives and evaluation of performance and results?

d. Identify barriers to competition and mitigation strategies.

e. Discuss procurement approaches to include alternative business arrangements.

f. Discuss effective methods of utilizing international partnerships while maintaining appropriate safeguards to U.S. developed technologies. g. Recommend process improvements and efficiencies, both in the acquisition phase as well as the performance phase, along with identification of non-value added steps.

VII. Summary

The information obtained will be used by NASA for planning and acquisition strategy development. NASA will use the information obtained as a result of this RFI on a non-attribution basis. Providing data and information that is limited or restricted for use by NASA for that purpose would be of very little value and such restricted/limited data/information is not solicited. No information or questions received will be posted to any website or public access location. NASA does not plan to respond to the individual responses, but will provide an update to development and acquisition plans. This RFI is being used to obtain information for planning purposes only and the Government does not presently intend to award a contract. As stipulated in FAR 15.201(e), responses to this notice are not considered offers and cannot be accepted by the Government to form a binding contract. This RFI is subject to FAR 52.215-3. Inputs shall be compliant with all legal and regulatory requirements concerning limitations on export controlled items.

All responses should be provided in MS Word document format via electronic media. Font should be Times New Roman, size 12. Responses should not exceed 50 pages total. Responses are requested to be submitted in Microsoft Office products in a user friendly environment to facilitate review. One hard copy and 3 CDs or DVDs are requested. Please submit responses no later than May 21, 2010, to NASA/MSFC Office of Procurement, Attn: PS52/Melinda E Dodson, Contracting Officer, Marshall Space Flight Center, AL 35812 or via e-mail at melinda.e.dodson@nasa.gov. Additional questions should also be provided to Melinda E Dodson via e-mail.

When responding please reference RFI05042010PS40

An ombudsman has been appointed -- See NASA Specific Note "B".

Any referenced notes may be viewed at the following URLs linked below.

Point of Contact

Name: Melinda E. Dodson
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 256-961-7454
Fax: 256-961-7524
Email: Melinda.E.Dodson@nasa.gov

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