EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Sept. 8, 2004 (PRIMEZONE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has been selected by NASA to help define the architecture of space transportation systems that will allow astronauts to travel initially to the moon, and later to Mars and beyond during the next few decades.

The collaboration with NASA is part of the company's ongoing effort to help the nation define the smartest, most cost-effective way to design, implement and sustain the nation's Vision for Space Exploration.

As part of a $6 million concept exploration and refinement (CE&R) contract awarded by NASA's Office of Exploration Systems, Northrop Grumman will help NASA define the "system of systems" architecture for Project Constellation, a constellation of human and robotic space transportation systems, launch vehicles and related in-space and lunar infrastructure required to ferry astronauts to and from the moon and Mars.

The contract, which includes approximately $3 million for a six-month base period and an option worth approximately $3 million, also includes development of an initial concept for the Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV), the first space transportation system planned for Project Constellation's system-of-systems architecture.

"Northrop Grumman's systems integration skills, technology innovation and fundamental attention to mission success have made the company a trusted provider of complex space systems to NASA for more than 40 years," said Gary Ervin, a vice president for the company's Integrated Systems' sector. "Today marks the beginning of the next significant chapter in that legacy as we begin building an affordable, reliable and sustainable foundation for what promises to be the most exciting era yet in the nation's history of space exploration."

According to Doug Young, Northrop Grumman's lead executive for Project Constellation, the study contract will involve an unusually large amount of collaboration -- as much as two days per week -- among NASA, Northrop Grumman and other aerospace contractors who have been awarded CE&R study contracts.

"We'll be working closely with our aerospace industry colleagues to flesh out a basic 'community view' of the Project Constellation architecture, with an emphasis on the portion of the architecture that defines and sets requirements for the transportation of humans to and from the moon," explained Young. "This 'big picture' view of the architecture will also help define the basic functional role of the CEV within the Project Constellation architecture." NASA and the contractor teams will then use that consensus view of the CEV's functional role, he added, to derive the vehicle's basic operational requirements.

"Function" refers to the role that the CEV plays within the architecture (e.g. 'transports humans from Earth to space destinations'), whereas "requirements" refer to specific capabilities required (e.g. 'must carry at least X passengers').

Young considers the CE&R study contract to be perhaps the single most important decision-making process in the nation's space-exploration future.

"The challenge here is to define a system-of-systems architecture that's technically achievable and economically feasible well into the future," he explained. "We're not just defining a single-point-in-time solution, but rather a concept that has to survive and successfully evolve through many political, economic and technological cycles."

The concept exploration and refinement study contract is expected to lead to a request for proposals during the first quarter of 2005 to define and develop the CEV.

Northrop Grumman brings to the Vision for Space Exploration a wealth of experience designing, producing, and integrating large, high precision space systems. From the early Pioneer family of satellites and the Lunar Module, to NASA's current Chandra X-ray Observatory and its Aqua and Aura earth observation satellites, the company has answered the nation's most challenging space missions with an unmatched record in reliability, innovation and on-orbit performance. This legacy of success is reinforced by Northrop Grumman's demonstrated expertise in developing and integrating large mission-driven systems for the U.S. government, including the B-2 stealth bomber, the Global Hawk aerial reconnaissance system and major elements of the ballistic missile defense system.

The company today has more than 20,000 employees devoted to space-related projects.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a global defense company headquartered in Los Angeles, Calif. Northrop Grumman provides technologically advanced, innovative products, services and solutions in systems integration, defense electronics, information technology, advanced aircraft, shipbuilding and space technology. With 125,000 employees, and operations in all 50 states and 25 countries, Northrop Grumman serves U.S. and international military, government and commercial customers.

  CONTACT:  Brooks McKinney, APR
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (310) 331-6610

          Jim Hart
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems 
          (310) 331-3616