NASA has awarded Boeing a contract to provide 10 new core stages for its Space Launch System (SLS). The agreement also includes a provision for up to eight Exploration Upper Stages for Artemis missions three through 12, along with the option of an additional 10 core stages further down the track. Today’s award means that NASA’s Artemis missions will be supplied with boosters through to the end of the next decade.
The program is planned to include the next phase of US manned lunar landing missions, the building of the Gateway deep-space outpost, and even preparations for the first manned mission to Mars.
Boeing is the prime contractor for the SLS core stage, plus the avionics and variants of the upper stages that will be used as the booster system evolves. The first of the core stages is being built and tested by Boeing at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, along with the second core stage. When the SLS goes into service, it will be able to launch the 27-tonne manned Orion spacecraft into a translunar orbit as well as be able to put up to 130 tonnes into low-Earth orbit.
Standing 212 ft (64.6 m) tall and 27.6 ft (8.4 m) in diameter, the core stage consists of four RS-25 liquid-fuel rocket engines burning liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, generating 2.2 million lb of thrust for a total power output equal to 12 Hoover Dams.
“Boeing has implemented advanced manufacturing technologies for design, test, and production of the core stages, which will make both core stage production and upper stage development faster, more efficient, and safer,” says John Shannon, Boeing vice president and Space Launch System program manager. “The evolvable nature of the rocket will allow us to onboard new advances in materials and production technologies as we move forward to the moon and on to Mars.”