Design Work Awarded for Space Station : Rockwell, McDonnell to Vie for Final Job; Lockheed Loses Out

Times Staff Writer

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration awarded $27-million contracts to both Rockwell International and McDonnell Douglas on Monday, pitting the defense giants against one another in the final round of competition to design and build an $8-billion manned space station that President Reagan wants to have in the sky by mid-1990.

The awards mean that Burbank-based Lockheed has been eliminated from the contest for the final NASA contract to build the basic structure of the 400-foot space station, several robot arms, a communications system and the inside of two of the four manned rooms planned for the structure. That key contract is worth an estimated $3 billion in 1984 dollars, or about 40% of the planned space-station budget.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Apr. 17, 1985 FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Wednesday April 17, 1985 Home Edition Business Part 4 Page 2 Column 3 Financial Desk 1 inches; 29 words Type of Material: Correction
Rockwell International says it will perform work on its space station prototype at its Space Station Systems division in Downey. Due to an editing error, a story in Tuesday’s editions named the wrong division.

McDonnell Douglas and Rockwell will now design and produce prototypes of the station, competing between them for the contract, which NASA will award in 21 months.

The station will be America’s first permanent, manned space station, and most defense and aerospace contractors view winning work on the project as an important step in getting additional work in the growing militarization and commercialization of space.


Most Work in Area

McDonnell Douglas said it will do most of the preliminary design work awarded Monday in Huntington Beach, where its space-station program is based. Rockwell said it will do most of its work in Downey, home of the Pittsburgh-based company’s Rocketdyne division.

McDonnell Douglas, which has added about 150 people to its Huntington Beach facility since last summer, said that it will not add many new employees for the preliminary design but that winning the final NASA contract would require hiring “several thousand” workers by 1990.

Rockwell said the preliminary contract will add about 150 workers to its operations in California. The company said that, depending on how well its other operations are doing, winning the final contract could add as many as 3,000 workers to its payroll, about 60% of them in California.

A Lockheed spokesman said the company was “disappointed” to be pushed out of the race now but said it “feels confident” it will win other contracts in the project. Losing subcontractors in the Lockheed bid were TRW, Hughes Aircraft and Bendix.

McDonnell Douglas’ major subcontractors on the project are IBM, RCA and Honeywell. Rockwell’s major subcontractors on the project are Grumman, Sperry, Harris Corp., Intermetrics Inc. and SRI International.

The United States put a manned space station called Skylab in orbit in 1973 but only used it for three missions. The structure fell to Earth in 1979. The Soviet Union has had a manned station in space continuously since 1971.

By having a permanent station in space, NASA hopes to provide a research lab for scientists and a manufacturing lab where pharmaceutical and chemical companies can use the weightlessness of space to produce substances in greater and purer quantities than possible on Earth.


NASA also hopes to use the station to make new materials such as perfectly formed silicon crystals, which have the potential to make significantly improved computer chips. Such shapes are difficult to perfect on Earth because of the pull of gravity.

Early last year, Reagan ordered NASA to proceed with the space-station program. NASA then outlined the basic requirements for the station and asked for bids to design and build sections of it in four areas.

On March 14, NASA awarded “final round” contracts in three of those areas. Boeing and Martin Marietta won contracts of $24 million each to make preliminary structural designs of five manned modules planned for the station. RCA and General Electric each won a contract worth $10 million to design unmanned satellites that will circle the station. And Rockwell and TRW each won contracts worth $6 million to make a preliminary design for the structure’s solar cells and other power sources.

Monday’s award to Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas is the fourth and final step in the last stretch of bidding before final contracts are awarded.


Congress has approved $150 million for the station in fiscal 1985, which ends Sept. 30. The White House has requested $230 million more for fiscal 1986, which begins Oct. 1. That proposal is now before Congress.