Northrop Grumman Awarded NASA Booster Production Contract


Northrop Grumman has been awarded a contract to build boosters for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. The Booster Production and Operations Contract (BPOC), which is valued at $3.19 billion, will support nine SLS flights through Dec. 31, 2031. Along with support for NASA’s first three Artemis missions, for which Northrop Grumman has already produced booster motors, the contract covers booster production and operations for Artemis IV through VIII.

“This contract award ensures NASA will have the most powerful solid rocket boosters ever built for future Space Launch System rockets for the Artemis missions to the Moon,” said Bruce Tiller, NASA SLS booster manager. “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.”

The contract also includes provisions for the design, development, testing and evaluation of a booster as part of Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) for the Artemis IX mission. According to NASA, the BOLE boosters will replace the steel cases currently used with a stronger composite case in addition to upgrading structures, electronic thrust vector control systems and propellant materials. The first launch of the SLS rocket is expected to take place early next year as part of the uncrewed Artemis I flight test.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “This contract award ensures NASA will have the most powerful solid rocket boosters ever built”
    Bigger than the AJ-260?

    I don’t think so!
    AKA: 260 inch solid HL. Status: Tested 1965. Thrust: 17,695.30 kN (3,978,062 lbf). Gross mass: 831,345 kg (1,832,801 lb). Unfuelled mass: 85,321 kg (188,100 lb). Specific impulse: 263 s. Specific impulse sea level: 238 s. Burn time: 114 s. Height: 18.29 m (60.00 ft). Diameter: 6.60 m (21.60 ft).

    • I think it’s fair to call the SLS boosters bigger, because as far as I can tell from web searches, no AJ-260 was built full size or for flight. I see mention of three “short length” test articles, SL-1, SL-2, and SL-3 [source: astronautix (dot) com/a/aj-260.html ]. They were test fired. I see no mention of a full length AJ-260 or of a flying example.

      A NASA page on the SLS booster says, “The SLS booster is the largest, most powerful solid propellant booster ever built for flight.” The last two words are critical. It also gives the following dimension: Length: 177 feet (53.9m). Diameter: 12 feet (3.7m), Weight (presumably fueled, presumably on earth’s surface): 1.6 million pounds each (8 million Newtons, 726,000 kg), Thrust: 3.6 million pounds each (16,000 kN), Operational time: 126 seconds. [Source: www (dot) nasa (dot) gov /exploration/systems/sls/fs/solid-rocket-booster.html ]

      Of course, the SLS booster doesn’t start to win this competition until a machine is actually built with the intention of flying it, and it doesn’t definitively win until a machine actually flies.