Spaceflight Insider

Raytheon continues support for astronaut training at NBL

Raytheon continues support: Mockup of Orion spacecraft at NASA's Johnson Space Center Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA’s new crew-rated spacecraft is prepped for tests at the NBL located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Texas. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian / SpaceFlight Insider

NASA has awarded Raytheon Company a new contract to continue mission support at the space agency’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory (NBL) located in Houston, Texas. The new $154-million contract allows the company to provide technical and engineering support at the facility for the next seven years.

Raytheon continues support: Divers at NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Texas. Photo Credit: Juan Diego Delagarza / SpaceFlight Insider

Divers at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory in Texas. Photo Credit: Juan Diego Delagarza / SpaceFlight Insider

NBL is one element of NASA’s astronaut training facilities and the neutral buoyancy pool is operated by NASA and located at the Sonny Carter Training Facility, near NASA’s Johnson Space Center.

The massive 6.2-million-U.S.-gallon instrumented pool is the place where astronauts learn to work in space and train on a submerged full-sized mockup of the International Space Station (ISS).

“Raytheon’s focus for the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory contract is enabling high-consequence training for astronauts as a foundation for success in all human spaceflight missions. Spacewalks require immense amounts of training and rehearsals on the ground. Safe, efficient and effective operations at the NBL are critical for the success of the International Space Station,” David Appel, Senior Director of Mission Systems, Mission Support & Modernization at Raytheon Intelligence, Information and Services, told SpaceFlight Insider.

Raytheon has provided mission support at NBL since 2003. This support is viewed as being crucial for extending the life cycle of the massive underwater mockups of the ISS as well as preparing the agency for its first forays into deep space in more than 40 years. The company works to help NASA to lower operating costs of the facility by leasing it to external customers.

The new contract is thought to be critical to the future of the U.S. human space flight program as it encompasses preparations for launching astronauts from U.S. soil again, both to the ISS on commercially-produced spacecraft and NASA’s deep space aspirations.

“Raytheon-backed training will also continue to be paramount as Orion and the Commercial Crew Program launch humans further into space,” Appel said.

The contract is just the latest awarded to Raytheon, with the company having contributed to space flight from the earliest days of the Space Age, with Raytheon providing the guidance computers that steered some of the first of NASA’s capsules, including Apollo 11.

“Raytheon technology beamed back the first images from the lunar surface and delivered Neil Armstrong’s famous transmission, ‘One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.’ In the decades since, Raytheon has become a leader in dozens of space-related specialties, from helping launch satellites to space system cybersecurity. Today, we provide end-to-end support to NASA and the U.S. military,” Appel noted.

Headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, Raytheon Company is a major U.S. defense contractor and industrial corporation with some 63,000 employees. The company provides electronics, mission systems integration, C5I products and services, sensing, effects, and mission support for customers in more than 80 countries.

NASA is currently working to cede the responsibility of sending astronauts to the space station to private firms Boeing and SpaceX as it works with Boeing and Lockheed-Martin to launch crews to the Moon, Mars and other deep space destinations. The first flight of the space agency’s super heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket is currently scheduled to take place in 2019.



Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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