NASA is planning to develop a long-term production center for the Space Launch System though it is unsure of the costs it will incur in contracting with the experts.
NASA has revealed that they have an agreement with Northrop Grumman so that the firm can manufacture rocket boosters for the Space Launch System. This deal involves a tune of $49.5 million to purchase the rocket boosters’ components for use in the subsequent test flights of the SLS. This move adds to Northrop Grumman’s tasks given that it also needs to design Artemis 1,2 and 3 boosters for SLS before 2025.
The agreement is an initiative that precedes a long-term contract of manufacturing boosters for the six SLS programs. The long-term deal will finally be complete in 2021 to hold up to 2030.
NASA’s SLS program manager John Honeycutt submits that the progressive steps are plans that NASA intends to integrate all the components for the upcoming Space Launch System rockets. These rockets will be in use in the lunar Artemis exploration missions. He states that the agreement gives them adequate time to purchase the components needed to produce boosters for the fourth mission.
The SLS intends to merge capsules from the Northrop Grumman to form a five-segment solid rocket booster to fix the shuttle for its apparent missions. Currently, Northrop Grumman has been transporting segments from its Utah site to the Kennedy Space Center to finalize the stack up and adjoining of the capsules. These capsules are especially to complete the boosters for the Artemis 1 mission.
NASA’s SLS boosters office manager, Bruce Tiller, that they are integrating the boosters to initiate the Artemis 1 mission. He further reveals that they are designing boosters to stock up for the upcoming Artemis 2 and 3 projects. This SLS booster office is at the Marshall Space Flight Center.
Recently, NASA has signed contracts with space firms to operationalize the Space Launch System as soon as possible. Some of the agreements include the Boeing deal from which they will obtain ten primary platforms of the rocket. Another contract involves Aerojet Rocketdyne. This $1.79 billion deal will generate 18 RS-25 engines for the primary stage of the rocket.
NASA speculates that these long-term agreements can minimize the total cost of designing single SLS vehicles. NASA’s administrator Jim Bridenstine said, at the Michoud Assembly Facility, that the cost of purchasing an individual SLS rocket is substantially high compared to buying the rockets in bulk. This statement came out after they witnessed the finality of Artemis 1 primary stage. However, the reduced cost in such purchases remains uncertain though Bridenstine hints that they expect to obtain an individual SLS at half the regular price.
Long-term contracts open up methods for the individual partners to minimize costs since they need to make profits. Aerojet Rocketdyne executives revealed that their R&D department is working out to reduce the manufacturing costs of an RS-25 engine by 50 percent.