NASA awarded contracts totaling approximately $56.5 million for five companies to provide liquid and gaseous helium for 17 agency locations, the U.S. space agency said Sept. 8 in a press release.

NASA contracted for approximately 12.5 million liters of liquid helium and roughly 6 million cubic meters of gaseous helium to be delivered during a five-year period of performance starting Oct. 1.

NASA uses helium as a cryogenic agent for cooling various materials, in precision welding applications, lab use, as an inert purge gas for hydrogen systems, and as a pressurizing agent for the space shuttle’s ground and flight fluid systems.

The five awardees are: Air Products and Chemicals Inc. of Allentown, Pa., ($18.7 million); Linde LLC of Murray Hill, N.J., ($80,000); Matheson Tri-Gas Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., ($3.8 million); Praxair Distribution Inc. of Austin, Texas ($553,000); and Praxair Inc. of Danbury, Conn., ($33.4 million).