NASA has selected Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., for a $23.3 million contract to develop engineering demonstrations and risk reduction concepts for future advanced boosters for the agency's Space Launch System (SLS).
Aerojet is one of four companies contracted under a NASA Research Announcement (NRA) to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for a future version of the SLS heavy-lift rocket.
The SLS vehicle will take the agency's Orion spacecraft and other payloads farther than ever before. The initial 70-metric-ton (77-ton) configuration will use two five-segment solid rocket boosters similar to the boosters that helped power the space shuttle to orbit. An evolved 130-metric-ton (143-ton) rocket will require an advanced booster with more thrust than any existing U.S. liquid- or solid-fueled boosters.
Aerojet will work to reduce the risk and improve technical maturation of a liquid oxygen and kerosene oxidizer-rich staged-combustion engine. The company will fabricate a representative full-scale 550,000-pound thrust class main injector and thrust chamber, and prepare to conduct a number of tests measuring performance and demonstrating combustion stability.
In addition to Aerojet, three other companies are under contract to develop SLS advanced booster contracts including ATK Launch Systems Inc. of Brigham City, Utah; Dynetics Inc. of Huntsville, Ala.; and Northrop Grumman Corporation Aerospace Systems of Redondo Beach, Calif. These new initiatives will perform and examine advanced booster concepts and hardware demonstrations during an approximate 30-month period.
While commercial partners seek to fly astronauts and payloads to the International Space Station, NASA's SLS, with an uncrewed Orion spacecraft, will begin the first step towards deep space on a flight test in 2017.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the SLS Program for the agency. NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center in Houston manages Orion. SLS will launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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