A decade of work in the high desert of Box Elder County reached a milestone last week — one that will help the American space program return to the moon and beyond.
The segments for the two rocket boosters that will be used to help launch NASA’s first Space Launch System (SLS) rocket for the Artemis I mission arrived June 15 at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, completing a 10-day journey by train that began at Northrop Grumman Corp.’s local facilities in Promontory.
The booster segments will be the first elements of the SLS rocket to be stacked on the mobile launcher in preparation for the launch of Artemis I, which is expected to happen sometime in 2021. The completed boosters will provide more than 75 percent of the initial thrust for launch.
Artemis I is the first in a series of missions that will enable human exploration to the moon and Mars. It is the first integrated launch of NASA’s deep space exploration system, comprised of the Orion spacecraft, SLS rocket and the ground systems at Kennedy Space Center.
“New technologies and material upgrades enable the boosters to meet the high performance demands of SLS, the most powerful rocket NASA has built to date,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our technology will help propel the first woman and the next man to the moon.”
NASA and Northrop Grumman conducted a series of ground tests beginning in 2010 to satisfy requirements for the certification of the five-segment booster. Three demonstration motor tests and two qualification tests proved the liftoff and ascent thrust capabilities of the booster are fully qualified for use on NASA’s SLS rocket.
Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to NASA since the Apollo program and continued its partnership for the entire 30 years of the Space Shuttle Program. Leveraging the success and flight-proven design of the shuttle boosters, the new five-segment configuration ensures reliability and offers lower manufacturing costs. Each rocket booster provides a maximum thrust of 3.6 million pounds for launching SLS and generates more thrust than 14 four-engine jumbo commercial airliners.