Northrop Grumman wins $3bn NASA rocket booster contract

The first BOLE case in winding at the Northrop Grumman Promontory, Utah, facility
The first BOLE case in winding at the Northrop Grumman Promontory, Utah, facility

NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman a booster production and operations contract valued up to $3.19bn to support the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket through 2031.

The award includes follow-on production and flight sets for Artemis IV through Artemis VIII, as well as production of the Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) boosters for Artemis IX.

The SLS rocket is part of NASA’s backbone for deep space exploration through Artemis missions.

This award supports the design, development and testing of the next generation five-segment solid rocket boosters to supplement and replace the eight remaining reusable Space Shuttle Program-era assets.

The new BOLE boosters will replace the steel cases used for the shuttle with a weight-saving composite case and upgraded structures, electronic thrust vector control systems and propellant materials to address obsolescence. This improved design additionally provides process simplification, improved interface, and streamlined ground processing at Kennedy Space Center, leading to greater productivity and efficiency.

“BOLE leverages our previous investments and existing infrastructures in SLS and supports long-term sustainability of NASA’s exploration programs,” said Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “This new booster design will provide additional heavy lift performance and support greater payload volume for deep space human and science missions.”

Artemis II booster production is complete and segments await transportation to Kennedy Space Center upon NASA’s request. All 10 segments for Artemis III have been cast with propellant, and Artemis IV segments began casting in November. The first composite BOLE booster segment case to be used for development testing completed winding in October.

Northrop Grumman has been awarded multiple contracts to support NASA’s Artemis programme including the abort motor and attitude control motor for the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system, designed to ensure astronaut safety during launch and ascent, atop the SLS rocket.

The company is also providing the Habitation and Logistics Outpost module for NASA’s Lunar Gateway, and was recently awarded a contract to develop Lunar lander concepts under NASA’s NEXTStep-2 Appendix N contract.

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