NASA’s highly delayed and expensive SLS (Space Launch System) rocket has just entered a new stage of development. The agency has just announced an extension of the contract to Boeing, to begin with, the manufacture of up to 10 central rocket cores, this in order to have everything ready for the Artemis III mission that would take the first woman and the next man to the Moon.
Since the beginning of the development of the SLS, Boeing has been the main contractor for the manufacture of the rocket, in fact it currently has a contract to manufacture the variant that will be used in the Artemis I and II (SLS Block 1) missions that will not be manned and is scheduled for 2021.
NASA and its enormous pressure to bring humans back to the moon
NASA and Boeing have not given economic details about this new contract, which also includes the development and manufacturing of up to eight higher stages of exploration, as well as the company’s participation from the third to the twelfth Artemis mission. That is, much, much money.
According to NASA, they have decided to order 10 central stages of the SLS from Boeing to “save production costs”, as this would take advantage of the current prices of components, labour and resources. And it is that the SLS was scheduled for its first launch in 2016, which has meant a significant increase in costs and initial budget.
“The new contract is expected to achieve substantial savings compared to the production costs of the main stages built during the design, development, testing and evaluation phase, applying the lessons learned during the construction of the first time and gaining efficiency through of wholesale purchases.”
Boeing delivered the first upper stage for the SLS Block 1 last year, and NASA has just finished assembling the first SLS rocket after adding the engine section to the rest of the structure in mid-September.
Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space, mentioned:
“We greatly appreciate the confidence that NASA has placed in Boeing to manufacture this rocket that will reach deep space and its support for our team’s approach to meet this unprecedented technological and manufacturing challenge in support of NASA’s Artemis program.”
Boeing also anticipated that it is already developing the higher power design of the Exploration Upper Stage, which will be the top stage for the Block 1B version of the SLS, which should be ready to support the 27 tons of the Orion manned ship. This development is being carried out at the Michoud Assembly Center (MAF), in New Orleans.
When the SLS enters service, it will be able to launch the 27-ton Orion manned ship into a translunar orbit, as well as put up to 130 tons in the low Earth orbit. It will have a height of 64.6 meters and a diameter of 8.4 meters, the central stage consists of four RS-25 liquid fuel engines that burn hydrogen and liquid oxygen, generating 2.2 million pounds of thrust.
Right now, the objective is the Moon and the Artemis missions, and NASA is still betting on the SLS despite the delays and high costs that continue to jeopardize the future of NASA’s exploration. If all goes well and these new deadlines are met, the next thing will be to start thinking about the missions to Mars, where the first manned launch is also contemplated.