A Contract Awarded
NASA has recently been awarded with a $3.19 billion contract to produce rocket boosters for future missions of the moon. The boosters will be of utmost use on Artemis missions through 2031.
Northrop Grumman was previously awarded a contract in 2020 that authorised the company to prepare for production and manufacture twin boosters. Following Artemis 3, which will bring the programme to Artemis 9, this is for the next six Space Launch System mega-rocket launches.
SLS is tasked with delivering people beyond the solar system and will make its maiden uncrewed voyage in 2022. Missions to lunar orbit, the lunar surface, and the projected lunar Gateway space station will be the starting point. In 2024, the first crewed orbital trip will take place, followed by the first landing mission in 2025.
According to NASA’s contract announcement, the award will assist the agency in planning and growing the Artemis programme to meet future needs.
“The deal enables NASA to join hands with Northrop Grumman for the development of boosters for bright future missions. It also enables the boosters to evolve and improve for future flights “NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama’s SLS booster manager, Bruce Tiller, remarked.
The solid rocket boosters that assist the NASA space shuttle during launches are the basis for the SLS booster technology. Between 1981 and 2011, solid rocket boosters were deployed on 135 space shuttle missions. Thiokol, subsequently known as ATK, was the original manufacturer. Thanks to a series of company mergers over the previous decade, Northrop Grumman now has the technology.
According to NASA documents, the SLS boosters are planned to be one-time use (not reusable, as the shuttle programme requested) and incorporate the fifth segment in addition to the shuttle’s four. According to Northrop Grumman’s statement about the new contract, more design changes to the shuttle programme are already in the works, with the ninth mission of SLS expected to fly in 2019.
Objectives of the New Boosters
“The new boosters will replace the shuttle’s steel cases with a lighter composite shell and improved structures. To overcome obsolescence, this also includes electronic thrust vector control systems and propellant materials “According to the firm.
“This new design also delivers process simplification, improved interface, and quicker ground processing, resulting in increased production and efficiency,” Northrop stated.
Following years of research, Orbital ATK, a precursor company to Northrop Grumman, conducted test firings of the booster system in 2009. The SLS booster was supposed to be the first stage of the Ares rocket in the cancelled Constellation moon-to-Mars mission. However, the technique was later adapted for SLS.
Since acquiring Orbital ATK in 2017 under an agreement announced in 2017, Northrop Grumman has been the principal manufacturer for SLS booster development.
Northrop Grumman received a nearly $50 million NASA letter contract in June 2020 to provide money and authority for future booster orders. It allows for the fabrication and operation of boosters for Artemis missions 4 through 8, as well as the evaluation of a new booster design for Artemis 9.