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Lockheed Martin To Study Hybrid Launch Vehicle Concept For Air Force

Air Force Hybrid Launch Vehicle prototype. Image credit. U.S. Air Force
by Staff Writers
Denver CO (SPX) May 09, 2006
Lockheed Martin announced Monday it has been awarded $2.5 million to begin studies for the U.S. Air Force's Hybrid Launch Vehicle program, scheduled to become operational in 2018.

Part of the Air Force's Operationally Responsive Space initiative, the HLV would be designed to provide an affordable, responsive, reliable and simple-to-operate launch capability for tactical space assets and conventional satellites into low Earth orbit.

LM Space Systems is one of four companies awarded contracts for the program by the Air Force's Space and Missile Systems Center, at Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif. LM will formulate conceptual designs for an operational system architecture, a subscale demonstrator and associated ground hardware and infrastructure for an HLV that employs a reusable first-stage booster and an expendable upper stage, the company said in a statement.

"Under our concept, the HLV will take off vertically and the reusable first stage will return to the launch site for a horizontal landing," said Dave Kennon, LM Space Systems' hybrid launch vehicle program manager.

Previous Air Force studies have found the hybrid approach - employing a reusable booster with expendable upper stages - offers cost advantages over either a fully expendable or a fully reusable vehicle. The approach also figures to allow a 24-hour to 48-hour turnaround time. Air Force requirements call for an HLV that will accommodate medium to heavy lift payloads, in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 pounds.

The contract includes a base amount of $1.2 million over 14 months and an option for $1.3 million over six more months. LM will perform HLV Studies and Analysis program management in Denver and engineering support work in Sunnyvale, Calif., New Orleans, La., and Fort Worth, Texas. The LM team includes subcontractors Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., for reusable propulsion systems.

In an upcoming separate procurement, the Air Force will select two teams to design subscale HLV demonstrators, with work to begin in fiscal year 2007. After preliminary design review, the Air Force will select one contractor team to develop the demonstrator HLV.

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