Stealth gas contracts awarded amid high-profile crewed Starliner mission

The Boeing Starliner docks with the International Space Station on Thursday. Photo courtesy of NASA
1 of 3 | The Boeing Starliner docks with the International Space Station on Thursday. Photo courtesy of NASA | License Photo

June 7 (UPI) -- NASA has awarded key contracts to a half dozen companies that will supply liquid nitrogen and liquid oxygen in support of operations at agency centers and facilities across the United States for the next five years, the space agency announced Thursday.

While not the most high-profile element of the space program, scientists would be unable to perform the work they need to without access to large amounts of critical gasses.


"The commodities will support current and future aerospace flight, simulation, research, development, testing and other operations at the following NASA centers and facilities," the administration said in a statement.

NASA will use almost 657 tons, or nearly 30.4 million gallons, of liquid nitrogen for pressurizing, cooling and other functions, and 243,000 tons, or about 2.1 million gallons, of liquid oxygen, which is mostly used as an oxidizer in cryogenic engines.

Air Products and Chemicals Inc. of Allentown, Pa., and Linde Inc. of Danbury, Conn., were among the biggest contract winners, bringing in $36.9 million and $42.2 million, respectively. Messer LLC, of Bridgewater, N.J., was the biggest winner at $62.3 million.

Airgas USA with locations in Georgia and Oklahoma were also awarded close to $10 million dollars between the two sites.


While much more low profile, the announcement of the gas contracts came against the backdrop of much bigger space news Thursday.

The Boeing Starliner spacecraft docked with the International Space Station Thursday afternoon after Wednesday launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

The launch had been scrubbed numerous times and the craft was forced to stand down before docking due to some technical issues.

"As Starliner began its approach to the space station, five reaction control system thrusters failed off during flight," the NASA Starliner mission website said.

"Mission teams performed a series of hot-fire tests which re-enabled four of the thrusters while the crew manually piloted the spacecraft at the station's 200-meter hold point."

Eventually, the Starliner docked with the ISS and shortly after that, the Starship astronauts made their way through an open hatch into the orbital and were greeted by resident crew members already on board. This was the first crewed flight for the Boeing Starliner spacecraft.

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