New Division to Work on Space Station : McDonnell Douglas Team Seeking $4.5-Billion NASA Contract

Times Staff Writer

In a bid to win a $4.5-billion NASA contract to help develop and launch a gigantic, orbiting space station, McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. said Wednesday that it has created a new division to operate in Orange County and Houston.

The Space Station Division will be headquartered at the McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. subsidiary in Huntington Beach. It is the latest step in an intense marketing battle among the nation's aerospace giants to snare contracts to build NASA's proposed space station.

About 300 of the 6,200 employees at the Huntington Beach facility--along with about 70 workers in Houston--already have been working on preliminary designs for the space station for the last two years.

Leader of Consortium

Now that they have been forged into a separate division, these employees will concentrate on developing final designs and production and launch plans for the orbiting station, said Al Eisenberg, manager of McDonnell Douglas Astronautics' Southwestern Regional Office in Houston.

The contract McDonnell Douglas is seeking as leader of a consortium is one of four that will be awarded by NASA, each representing a portion of the work to be done on the space station. Total value of the four pacts will exceed $10 billion, a McDonnell Douglas official said. The contract McDonnell Douglas is competing for is to be managed by NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

If McDonnell Douglas wins the contract, it will increase its Houston work force by about 500, said Robert F. Thompson, vice president and general manager of the company's new space station division.

Over the next several years, the proposed space station could bring about 1,000 new jobs for engineers and skilled technicians to metropolitan Houston's Clear Lake area, McDonnell Douglas President John Yardley said Tuesday. In Orange County, "several thousand" workers eventually could be needed for the project, Eisenberg said.

Rockwell Heads Other Team

The St. Louis-based aerospace firm is leading a team that includes IBM, Lockheed, RCA, Honeywell and Eagle Engineering in a bid for the contract, which should be awarded late this year. The team is competing against a group led by Rockwell International and including TRW, Grumman Corp., the Harris Corp. and Sperry Corp.

The work package includes a superstructure bigger than a football field, which will orbit in space and support a crew.

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