Praxair has been awarded another five-year contract to provide liquid oxygen for NASA\\$quot;s space shuttle programme at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida.

According to NASA the contract has a maximum value of $5.8m.

The company will provide all the management, labour, facilities, tools, equipment and materials necessary to manufacture and deliver the liquid oxygen to Kennedy, NASA said.

"We make the liquid oxygen in our facility, just up the road from the Space Centre," said Wally Cox, director of Praxair\\$quot;s government and aerospace programme. The facility services other markets, but \\$quot;˜NASA is its biggest customer\\$quot;.

Air is separated into oxygen, nitrogen and argon at the facility, the oxygen is liquefied and transported to the Space Centre \\$quot;˜in giant thermos bottles\\$quot; where it is offloaded and piped to the launch pad, he said.

The space shuttle, due for launch during a window from 1 - 19 July, depending on weather and other factors, will use 1,450 tons of Praxair liquid oxygen to propel it into Earth orbit and for re-entry.

The new contract, effective earlier this month, is a renewal of a series of five-year contracts that Praxair has been awarded for the oxygen, Cox said.