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NASA Finalizes Contract To Build The Most Powerful Rocket Ever

McClatchy Tribune News Service National News

NASA Finalizes Contract To Build The Most Powerful Rocket Ever


By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times

NASA has reached a milestone in its development of the Space Launch System, or SLS, which is set to be the most powerful rocket ever and may one day take astronauts to Mars.

After completing a critical design review, Boeing Co. has finalized a $2.8 billion contract with the space agency. The deal allows full production on the rocket to begin.

“Our teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the SLS — the largest ever — will be built safely, affordably and on time,” Virginia Barnes, Boeing’s Space Launch System vice president and program manager, said in a statement.

The last time NASA’s completed a critical design review of a deep-space human rocket was 1961, when the space agency assessed the mighty Saturn V, which ultimately took man to the moon.

Work on the 321-foot Space Launch System is spread throughout Southern California, including Boeing’s avionics team in Huntington Beach. The rocket’s core stage will get its power from four RS-25 engines for former space shuttle main engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne of Canoga Park.

The rocket will carry the Orion spacecraft, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., which can carry up to four astronauts beyond low Earth orbit on long-duration, deep-space destinations including near-Earth asteroids, the moon, and ultimately Mars.

The rocket, which is designed to carry crew and cargo, is scheduled for its initial test flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in 2017.

The first mission will launch an empty Orion spacecraft. The second mission is targeted for 2021 and will launch Orion and a crew of up to four NASA astronauts.

The rocket’s initial flight-test configuration will provide a 77-ton lift capacity. The final evolved two-stage configuration will be able to lift more than 143 tons.

Photo: Luke Bryant via Flickr



  1. James Bowen July 3, 2014

    Let’s hope this gets done.

  2. Dominick Vila July 3, 2014

    One of the funniest claims made by Republicans involve the alleged destruction of NASA. Interestingly, the alleged socialist has transferred most design, development, and operational responsibilities to private industry…while every Republican administration before him relied on government to get things done. In any case, this is a good move by NASA. We need a more powerful and reliable rocket for deep space missions, including potential manned missions to Mars and other planets.
    It is also important to remember the benefits of contributing to cutting edge technology to our industry and ability to dominate the high tech industry.

    1. Allan Richardson July 5, 2014

      New technology is best developed, at first, with government help (even the telegraph had the first few lines subsidized by Congress), especially if there is a social benefit in doing it safely, because a private enterprise, unless restricted by law from doing so, is liable to cut corners on safety to increase profits. Notice how many of the explorers who came to the New World after Columbus came in shoddy, rickety ships with a high sinking rate. But after the basic principles have been established, and infrastructure has been built, the return on investment becomes reasonable for private companies to go to work.

  3. Gavrila Derzhavin July 3, 2014

    Even though the concepts of cultural evolution & biological evolution share some similarities, there are critical differences between them.

    1. Sand_Cat July 5, 2014

      Obviously, you’re having trouble with both.


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