December 22, 2007 The U.S. Vision for Space Exploration is an important step closer to being realized, with NASA awarding the Boeing Company a $265 million contract to produce the instrument unit avionics for the Ares I launch vehicle - a platform that will eventually be used for manned expeditions to the Moon and Mars.
The IUA is the “brains” of the Ares I rocket, providing guidance, navigation and control hardware. Boeing will produce three IUA flight test units and six production units, with an option to produce four additional units per year from 2014 to 2016.
The Ares I has been designed to launch the Orion spacecraft, which will carry four to six astronauts on various missions beginning in 2015. These missions fall under the banner of NASA’s Project Constellation – a plan for a manned mission to the moon in 2020, and a manned mission to Mars by 2050. The budget request for Project Constellation, announced in 2005, totals $6.6 billion over five years.
The Ares I completed its systems requirements review in January 2007, marking the first such review for a manned spacecraft design since the Space Shuttle, which has been in use by NASA since 1977.
In the Vision for Space Exploration outline, NASA states that “the exploratory voyages of the next few decades have the potential – within our lifetimes – to answer age-old questions about how life begins, whether life exists elsewhere, and how we could live out there.”