NASA issued a request for proposal for the huge Ares V rocket that will hoist payloads to space needed for astronauts to return to the moon and establish a permanent outpost there, the space agency announced.

The request is for Phase I concept definition and requirements development for the Ares V rocket.

Proposals are due to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., no later than 1 p.m. CT Feb. 9.

The request for proposal defines the procurement approach for Phase I of the Ares V acquisition. Contract work will include developing products to enable NASA to successfully complete the system requirements review and system definition review, critical milestones in the development of the rocket.

Completion of the system definition review will verify the design concept and demonstrate mission objectives can be met.

The solicitation includes five separate work packages available for bid. Work packages one through four include the payload shroud that will protect the Altair lunar lander during launch, the Earth Departure Stage, the core stage, and avionics and software.

Products for these work packages include assessing point of departure architecture, assessing risks and opportunities, trade studies and analysis, assessment of NASA requirements and a final report. The fifth work package includes a first stage concept for an upgraded solid rocket fueled booster.

Marshall will manage the contracts, which will be awarded through a full and open competition.

Selections will be made in the spring. The period of performance for each contract is 18 months with two, one-year options.

For further information about the request for proposal, please go to on the Web.

The Ares V rocket will be far larger than the Ares 1 rocket now in development. Ares 1 will hoist the next-generation Orion space capsule, or crew exploration vehicle, into orbit. Orion is the crew transport that will replace the space shuttle fleet that, by order of President Bush, must retire by October 2010. However, Orion won’t have its first manned flight until March 2015, leaving a half-decade gap when NASA can transport even one of its astronauts to low Earth orbit.

Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT], which isn’t among the contractors chosen to work on Ares 1, is the prime contractor for Orion. Further, Lockheed is expected to be interested in the Ares V program. The Ares V will be a huge rocket lifting large loads into orbit, such as items required for human existence on the moon.

Several contractors are working separately on various components of the Ares 1 rocket that will lift Orion and its crew into space: The Boeing Co. [BA], Alliant Techsystems Inc. [ATK], and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a unit of United Technologies Corp. [UTX].

Recently, rumors have surfaced critical of the Ares 1, suggesting that a strong gust of wind from the south could knock Ares 1 into its launch tower, or that it is so overweight on paper that the crew size of Orion would have to be reduced. Top NASA officials flatly reject both those rumors.

Further, NASA Administrator Mike Griffin called Lockheed chairman, president and CEO Robert Stevens, asserting that Lockheed is trying to kill the Ares 1 project so that United Launch Alliance, a joint venture that sells Lockheed and Boeing rockets, could get the business instead.

Lockheed denies that allegation. (Please see stories in this issue and on Jan. 5, 2009.)