Two Northrop Grumman Corporation five-segment solid rocket boosters helped successfully launch the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket from Pad 39B in Kennedy Space Center, Florida as part of the Artemis I mission. This is the first in a series of Artemis missions focused on deep space exploration and establishing a sustainable human presence on and around the moon.
«The SLS rocket was launched by a powerful 7.2 million pounds/3,265,865 kg of thrust from our solid rocket boosters which are largest, human-rated solid rocket boosters ever built», said Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «Northop Grumman has been pioneering in space for over 50 years and our contributions to NASA’s Artemis missions continue our incredible legacy of innovation».
Booster segments for Artemis II, the first crewed mission, and Artemis III, the mission that will land the first woman on the lunar surface, are complete. Artemis IV segments are currently being cast with propellant. Northrop Grumman supplied rocket propulsion for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle programs and developed the five-segment SLS solid rocket booster based on the flight-proven design of the space shuttle boosters. The company will provide ongoing support for SLS and the Artemis missions through 2031.
Northrop Grumman Corporation and NASA successfully conducted a full-scale static fire of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket motor, known as Flight Support Booster-2. The five-segment solid rocket booster is the world’s largest solid rocket motor and will provide more than 75 percent of the SLS rocket’s initial thrust during launch.
Over 300 measurement channels assessed the 154-foot-long/50-meter-long solid rocket booster as it fired for just over two minutes producing upwards of 3.6 million pounds of thrust. Today’s test evaluates new materials and demonstrates a new motor ignition system and an electronic thrust vector control system that steers the motors to provide data for the development of the next-generation Booster Obsolescence and Life Extension (BOLE) boosters.
Northrop Grumman was awarded a contract to develop the BOLE booster in December 2021. The award also included follow-on production and flight sets for Artemis IV through Artemis VIII, and a BOLE booster set for Artemis IX.
«Continuous product improvements and obsolescence mitigation helps NASA achieve its long-term mission to utilize SLS for its Artemis program», said Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «This opportunity for early learning on next-generation systems will help us develop an enhanced booster that is ready to support the greater payload demands of the SLS rocket through 2031».
Booster segments for Artemis II, the first crewed Artemis mission, and Artemis III, the mission that will land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface, are complete. Artemis IV segments are currently being cast with propellant and the first BOLE booster composite segment case to be used for development testing completed winding in October.
Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle Programs and developed the five-segment SLS solid rocket booster based on the flight-proven design of the space shuttle boosters. Designed with an additional segment and upgraded technology and materials, each of the twin solid rocket boosters generates 25 percent more thrust than its predecessor boosters to aid the SLS rocket’s ability to deliver greater mass and volume to space with greater departure energy than any existing launch vehicle.
Along with the twin solid rocket boosters, Northrop Grumman also produces the abort motor and attitude control motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System that increases astronaut safety on pad and during ascent. The company further supports the Artemis program providing the Habitation and Logistics Outpost module for NASA’s lunar Gateway and internally developing a Lunar Terrain Vehicle that supports human and robotic exploration of the moon and beyond.
Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.
NASA and Boeing have initiated a contract for the production of 10 Space Launch System core stages and up to eight Exploration Upper Stages to support the third through the twelfth Artemis missions.
Up to 10 additional core stages may be ordered under the contract, leveraging active labor, materials, and facility resources and supply chain efficiencies for production savings.
SLS is NASA’s deep space exploration rocket that will launch astronauts in the 27-metric ton Orion crew vehicle, plus cargo, from Earth to the moon and eventually to Mars. Boeing is the prime contractor for the rocket’s core stage, avionics, and variations of the upper stage. The rocket is designed to be evolvable for missions beyond the moon.
«We greatly appreciate the confidence NASA has placed in Boeing to deliver this deep space rocket and their endorsement of our team’s approach to meeting this unprecedented technological and manufacturing challenge in support of NASA’s Artemis program», said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing’s Space and Launch division.
«Together with a nationwide network of engaged and innovative suppliers we will deliver the first core stage to NASA this year for Artemis I», Chilton added. «This team is already implementing lessons learned and innovative practices from the first build to produce a second core stage more efficiently than the first. We are committed to continuous improvement as they execute on this new contract».
Boeing designed, developed, tested and built the first SLS core stage under the original NASA Stages contract, including refurbishing the company’s manufacturing area at the Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans, building test versions of the SLS structures, and designing more efficient, modern tooling, all while abiding by stringent safety and quality standards for human spaceflight. The second core stage is simultaneously in production at MAF.
Boeing last year delivered the first upper stage, the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion System, built by United Launch Alliance in Decatur, Alabama, for the Block 1 version of the evolvable vehicle. The more powerful Exploration Upper Stage design for the Block 1B version is in development, while the MAF facility is being prepared for that build.
SLS is the only rocket that can carry the Orion, and necessary cargo, beyond Earth orbit in a single mission, making it a critical capability for NASA’s deep-space Artemis program.
«Boeing has implemented advanced manufacturing technologies for design, test, and production of the core stages, which will make both core stage production and upper stage development faster, more efficient, and safer», said John Shannon, Boeing vice president and Space Launch System program manager. «The evolvable nature of the rocket will allow us to onboard new advances in materials and production technologies as we move forward to the moon and on to Mars».