NASA sets path for up to six more Artemis moon exploration missions with SLS booster order

Artemis I Booster Segments Uncap
Artemis I Booster Segments Uncap
Darrell Etherington

NASA has laid the groundwork for an order of up to six additional SLS solid core booster rockets, from supplier Northrop Grumman, the agency announced this week. The six additional boosters would join the existing three that NASA previously locked in for use on Artemis 1, Artemis 2 and Artemis 3, which includes the targeted 2024 mission that will bring the next American man and the first American woman to the lunar surface.

While this is essentially a long-lead declaration of intent to help partner Northrop Grumman ensure its supply pipeline can supply the additional boosters in a timeline needed by NASA, rather than an actual order for the boosters themselves, it's still a big step with a potential total contract value of $49.5 million, with initial funding unlocked now. The schedule currently calls for those additional boosters to be delivered sometime before December 31, 2030, to provide some kind of idea about when Artemis missions 4-9 might potentially actually fly.

Solid boosters are used with the SLS (Space Launch System) in pairs, with one on each side flanking the SLS Core stage to provide around 75% of the total thrust power used during the take-off phase of its launch. They essentially take their design from those used during the Space Shuttle program, but with added oomph to help the heavier and larger SLS out of Earth's atmosphere and into space.

NASA has also been in the process of procuring new RS-25 engines and core stages needed for missions in the Artemis program beyond the initial three, and continues to prepare for Artemis 1, with the rocket assembly process for that at the point where the boosters are nearly ready to stack. Artemis 1 is currently targeting a November 2021 timeframe for launch.

More From

  • Ford blends tech and nostalgia in the 2021 Bronco

    After 24 years, Ford relaunched the 2021 Bronco in a splashy reveal streamed Monday evening on ABC, ESPN and National Geographic, each short film showcasing a different member of the family: the Bronco 2-door, Bronco 4-door and Bronco Sport. The Bronco 2021 — Ford's flagship series of 4x4 vehicles — is a brand that leans heavily on nostalgia, customization, functional design and technology such as the automaker's next-generation infotainment system and a digital trail mapping feature that lets owners plan, record and share their experiences via an app. This is not the 1966 Ford Bronco, the first year that the rugged two-door off-roader came to market to compete with the Jeep CJ-5.

  • BigCommerce files to go public

    As expected, BigCommerce has filed to go public. BigCommerce, similar to public market darling Shopify, provides e-commerce services to merchants. Given how enamored public investors are with its Canadian rival, the timing of BigCommerce's debut is utterly unsurprising and is prima facie intelligent.

  • Snapchat tests TikTok-style navigation for exploring public content

    Snapchat could be gearing up to more directly challenge TikTok. The company confirmed it's testing a new experience that allows users to move through Snapchat's public content with a vertical swiping motion -- a gesture that's been popularized by TikTok, where it allows users to advance between videos. Snapchat says the feature is one of its experiments in exploring different, immersive visual formats for community content.

  • Mighty Health created a wellness app with older adults top of mind

    Virtual classes might make it easier to work out anywhere, anytime, but not for anyone. Mainstream fitness tech often targets the young and fit, in advertisements and cardio-heavy exercises. This gap between mainstream fitness and elders is where Mighty Health, a Y Combinator graduate, comes in. Mighty Health has created a nutrition and fitness wellness app that is tailored to older adults who might have achy hips or joint problems.