Rockwell International won a $60-million contract Friday to continue development over the next 18 months of an engine to power the National Aerospace Plane (NASP), the craft that will take off like an airplane and soar into orbit at Mach 25.
Rockwell's competitor in the development program, Pratt & Whitney, was awarded an equal contract to continue development of its engine, which differs significantly from Rockwell's design.
The Pentagon and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which are sponsoring the program, had planned to possibly eliminate one of the firms from the competition, but decided instead to continue both developments. Under the contracts, both firms will develop large-scale working models of the supersonic ramjet engines.
"It is very good news," said Joyce Lincoln, a spokeswoman at the Rocketdyne division of the firm in Canoga Park, where 300 Rockwell workers are building the engine.