Lockheed Martin says it would bring 1,200 jobs to the Houston area if NASA selects the company to build the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV).

Lockheed Martin’s vice president for space exploration, John Karas, made the announcement March 24 at the University of Houston-Clear Lake before an audience of state and local officials, including U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and an aide to Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas).

Lockheed Martin submitted its final CEV proposal to NASA ahead of the March 20 deadline. The company is competing against Northrop Grumman and its teammate Boeing for a contract to help NASA design and build an Apollo-like capsule that would be used to transport astronauts to the international space station starting around 2014. The CEV would also be used in combination with other systems to transport astronauts to the Moon starting around 2018.

While no official sum has been announced by NASA, the CEV contract is expected to be worth billions of dollars.

Karas said the 1,200 mostly engineering jobs would represent about half of the Lockheed Martin team’s CEV work force.

The Houston-based work force would staff Lockheed Martin’s CEV program office — already about 100 people strong — and perform systems engineering, software development and qualification testing.

Lockheed Martin currently has about 800 employees in Houston spread across several NASA engineering-support contracts.

“We are following the vein that we are going to do our CEV program with NASA side by side at the human spaceflight centers, and help the transition from shuttle and station to CEV,” Karas said in an interview.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston is managing the CEV program. Karas said the Lockheed jobs would be spread between the center itself and contractor facilities in the immediate vicinity.

Lockheed Martin announced in late February that it would perform final assembly and checkout of the CEV in Florida, using facilities at Kennedy Space Center that would be improved with the aid of state funding. A Lockheed win on CEV would mean 400 to 500 new jobs for Florida, Karas said in an interview.

About 300 to 400 jobs also would be created at Lockheed Martin Space Systems‘ base of operations in Denver if the company wins the CEV competition, Karas said in an interview.

Texas, like Florida, has offered financial incentives to lure the CEV jobs to the state.

Karas declined to quantify the dollar value of the Texas incentive package, but said it was significant and would help pay for worker training and infrastructure and facility improvements needed for the CEV program.

Karas said Lockheed Martin plans to announce in coming weeks what a CEV win would mean for workers at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility outside New Orleans. Michoud builds the space shuttle external tank and is expected to remain in service well past 2010 manufacturing large structures for NASA’s proposed crew and cargo launchers.

Northrop Grumman so far has not announced where it would locate its CEV work force should it win the competition.

Brooks McKinney, a spokesman for Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems in El Segundo, Calif., said the company has provided its work force plan to NASA as part of its CEV proposal, but it would not be discussing job locations publicly until summer.

Comments: bberger@space.com