NASA has set the stage for an order for up to six additional SLS solid-core rockets from supplier Northrop Grumman, the agency announced this week. The six additional boosters would join the existing three that NASA previously locked for use on Artemis 1, Artemis 2 and Artemis 3, which includes the 2024 targeted mission that will bring the next American man and the first American woman to the moon.
Although this is essentially a long-term declaration of intent to help partner Northrop Grumman Ensuring that its supply pipeline can deliver the additional boosters within the timeframe required by NASA, rather than an actual order for the boosters themselves, is still a big step with potential total contract value. $ 49.5 million, with initial funding released now. The schedule currently calls for these additional boosters to be delivered before December 31, 2030, to provide some sort of idea of when Artemis 4-9 missions could potentially fly.
Solid boosters are used with SLS (Space Launch System) in pairs, with one on each side flanking the SLS Core stage to provide approximately 75% of the total thrust power used during the take-off phase of its launch. They essentially draw their design from those used during the space shuttle program, but with an extra twist to help the heavier and larger SLS out of the Earth’s atmosphere and into space.
NASA has also been acquiring new RS-25 engines and the basic steps required for Artemis program missions beyond the first three, and continues to prepare for Artemis 1, with the assembly process rocket to the point where the boosters are almost ready to be stacked. Artemis 1 is currently targeting a launch schedule for November 2021.