CHICAGO — Morton Thiokol Inc., which made the ill-fated booster rockets blamed for the destruction of the Challenger, on Monday dropped out of bidding contention for an upcoming National Aeronautics and Space Administration contract for the advanced solid rocket motor for the space shuttle.
The company noted its responsibilities in another program, the redesigned solid rocket motor, and said the decision "reflects Morton Thiokol's commitment to concentrate our energies and resources to perform at the highest levels in support of this program."
The move should save the company millions of dollars in up-front costs that may never be repaid, analysts said.
"Morton would have had to use its own money to do the design and development work. But what if Congress down the road doesn't like the price tag and won't pony up the money to build the rocket? The initial outlay is out of shareholders' pockets," said Robert Bartels at William Blair.
Morton Thiokol, which built the booster rockets that were later blamed for the loss of the shuttle Challenger in January, 1986, cited studies funded by NASA in which it took part on determining the best approaches for improved reliability, quality, performance and reproducibility of the space shuttle solid rocket motor.
"Our action should not in any way compromise NASA's ability to conduct a competitive procurement process for the (advanced solid rocket motor)," the company said.
"We believe that our planned course of action focusing on the RSRM will materially benefit NASA's key objectives and is in the best interests of America's space program," the company statement added.