NASA and Lockheed Martin Space Systems, of New Orleans, La., have
completed negotiations for production of 35 additional Super Lightweight
External Tanks for the Space Shuttle Program.

The six-year contract, worth approximately $1.15 billion, includes
the manufacture, assembly, test and delivery of the Super Lightweight Tanks
and the operations and maintenance of NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in
New Orleans. The contract also includes activities at NASA’s Marshall Space
Flight Center of Huntsville, Ala., and Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

“I am pleased with the profit structure of this contract which is
designed to assure the delivery of a quality product and to reward the
contractor and the employees on the basis of performance,” said Jerry
Smelser, manager of the External Tank Project Office at the Marshall Center.
“In my opinion, the negotiation process has resulted in a win-win contract.
This is a major milestone for Lockheed-Martin, the External Tank Project
Office, for the Center and for the Space Shuttle Program.”

This sixth production of tanks will be the first comprised totally
of Super Lightweight Tanks.

This latest version of the tank – which flew for the first time in
June 1998 — is the same size as the tank it replaces, but is about 7,500
pounds (3,401.9 kilograms) lighter. The weight reduction allows the Shuttle
to carry more payload.

The Super Lightweight Tank features major changes in materials and
design. Its liquid hydrogen tank and the liquid oxygen tank are constructed
of a new aluminum lithium – a lighter, stronger material than the metal
alloy used to manufacture previous External Tanks.

The External Tank, which holds the liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid
oxygen for the Shuttle’s three main engines, is the largest single component
of the Space Shuttle and the only part of the Shuttle that is not reused.
Standing 154 feet (46.9 meters) tall, the gigantic rust-colored tank is
taller than a 15-story building and is as wide as a silo with a diameter of
about 27 1/2 feet (8 meters). During launch, the tank also acts as the
structural backbone for the Shuttle orbiter and Solid Rocket Boosters
attached to it.

The first tank of the sixth production is scheduled for delivery to
the Kennedy Space Center in 2002.

Marshall is NASA’s lead Center for development of space
transportation and propulsion systems.