NASA has announced it will award Boeing with a contract to produce as many as 10 more Space Launch System (SLS) rocket core stages to support Artemis missions to the Moon.
In an October 16 NASA press release, the agency revealed it planned to purchase as many as 10 more SLS core stages from the lead contractor, Boeing. The SLS core stage houses cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen tanks that fuel the four RS-25 engines. The stage also houses the rocket’s flight computers and much of its avionics systems.
Currently, Boeing has a contract two produce two SLS core stages, the first of which is expected to be delivered for testing in the coming months. Additionally, the contractor has funding and authorization to produce a third core stage that will support Artemis III.
This third core stage is the first of the 10 that will make up the new contract, which is expected to be finalized within the next year. The authorisation to produce this stage was given to ensure the agency could meet the ambitious goal of returning to the Moon by 2024, a mission that the third core stage will support.
“It is urgent that we meet the President’s goal to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, and SLS is the only rocket that can help us meet that challenge,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “These initial steps allow NASA to start building the core stage that will launch the next astronauts to set foot on the lunar surface.”
Unlike many other contract announcements, the October 16 press release did not mention the value of the contract or if it will be a fixed-cost or cost-plus contract. This is likely due to criticism both NASA and Boeing have faced regarding the ballooning cost of the SLS program. Currently, the cost of a single SLS launch is projected to cost more than $1 billion.