PALMDALE – Hopes to build NASA’s next manned spacecraft in California dimmed with Lockheed Martin’s announcement that the Crew Exploration Vehicle will be assembled in Florida if the company wins the competition against the Northrop Grumman-Boeing team. Lockheed Martin officials said that locating the final assembly and integration operations near the launch operations at Kennedy Space Center would provide much greater efficiency in the flow of testing and operations leading to launch. As many as 400 people could be employed assembling and testing the spacecraft. “The point of final assembly and testing for each mission will be critical to the viability of NASA’s CEV program and the ideal location to do that is here in Florida adjacent to the launch site,” said John Karas, vice president of space exploration for Lockheed Martin. “Florida has an extremely talented existing work force with the skills, experience, dedication and track record to meet the challenges and requirements of NASA’s human spaceflight program. They also have facilities that can support the highly specialized work that the new Crew Exploration Vehicle will require.” Florida officials are offering an incentive package valued at $45.5 million to the winning contractor team to conduct the assembly work in their state. The incentives would cover training, transportation infrastructure, facility improvements and equipment. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant The Northrop Grumman-led team will not disclose its assembly site, saying the information is sensitive while the competition is going on. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman have production facilities at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale. Northrop Grumman’s partner, Boeing, also has operations at Plant 42. “Our challenge with keeping our aerospace programs has always been that we start a couple of yards behind because of the cost of doing business in California,” said state Sen. George Runner, R-Lancaster. “I’m certainly disappointed with Lockheed’s choice, but we have to keep putting on the best business case we can.” The California Space Authority, which is coordinating the state’s efforts to attract CEV work, is in talks with both teams. The substance of those talks are not being discussed publicly at this time because of the competition, but there is still room for optimism, said Eric Daniels, the authority’s director of government relations. “We feel that California is still very much in play and that California still has something to offer,” Daniels said. California officials are still talking with the Lockheed Martin team and have hopes that they can either convince the company to change its plans or get other pieces of the work. “We’re not saying uncle. We’re not giving up,” Daniels said. The Crew Exploration Vehicle will transport up to six crew members to and from the International Space Station and up to four astronauts for moon missions. NASA wants the CEV to begin its flights as close as possible to the planned 2010 retirement date of the space shuttle fleet. Proposals by the two teams are due by March 20. NASA will select one contractor team sometime this year to develop the spacecraft. NASA estimates it will cost $104 billion to return astronauts to the moon by 2018. The Apollo program spent the equivalent of $165 billion in today’s dollars from 1961 to the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969. NASA referred to the new moon plan as “Apollo on steroids.” The plan calls for placing four astronauts on the moon’s surface instead of two, as during the Apollo days. Astronauts would be able to stay on the moon’s surface for four days to a week, compared with the three-day stay of Apollo 17, the longest. Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!