NASA has awarded Northrop Grumman a $3.19 billion contract to build rocket boosters for Artemis moon missions through 2031, Space.com reported on Sunday.
The contract builds on a previous agreement in 2020 that authorized the company to prepare for production and build twin boosters for the next six Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket flights following Artemis 3.
SLS is scheduled to make its first flight next year without a crew, its first crewed orbital flight in 2024 and conduct the first landing mission the year after that.
"The contract allows NASA to work with Northrop Grumman to not only build the boosters for upcoming missions, but also to evolve and improve the boosters for future flights," Bruce Tiller, SLS booster manager at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, said in the space agency's contract statement.
SLS boosters, which are designed for one-time use, are based on the solid rocket boosters used during 135 space shuttle missions between 1981 and 2011, according to Space.com
Northrop Grumman said in its statement regarding the new contract that the new 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."
The company added that "this improved design additionally provides process simplification, improved interface, and streamlined ground processing at Kennedy Space Center, leading to greater productivity and efficiency."
Northrop Grumman says it has already completed booster production on Artemis 2, and that all segments for the Artemis 3 boosters have been cast with propellant. Artemis 4 segments began casting in November.
The company also has other NASA contracts in support of moon missions.
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