Boeing will develop the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for Nasa. The contract is valued at $2.8 billion.
The SLS rocket is destined to help America’s return in human exploration of deep space. The contract includes the avionics and to study the SLS Exploration Upper Stage, which will further expand mission range and payload capabilities.
The agreement comes as NASA and the Boeing team completes the Critical Design Review (CDR) on the core stage – the last major review before full production begins.
During the CDR, which began June 2, experts examined and confirmed the final design of the rocket’s cryogenic stages that will hold liquefied hydrogen and oxygen.
This milestone marks NASA’s first CDR on a deep-space human exploration launch vehicle since 1961, when the Saturn V rocket underwent a similar design review as the United States sought to land an astronaut on the moon.
Boeing participated in that CDR as well, as the three stages of the Saturn V were built by Boeing and its heritage companies Douglas Aircraft and North American Aviation.
Scheduled for its initial test flight in 2017, the SLS is designed to be flexible and evolvable to meet a variety of crew and cargo mission needs.
The initial flight-test configuration will provide a 77-ton capacity, and the final evolved two-stage configuration will provide a lift capability of more than 143 tons.