Boeing and NASA Sign $2.8 Billion Deal for SLS Rocket Core

The Boeing Co. says it has finalized a $2.8 billion contract with NASA to develop the core stage of the heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket, which is destined to send humans beyond the moon's orbit for the first time. The agreement, announced Wednesday, comes as NASA and Boeing complete a critical design review of the core stage — the last review before full production begins.

The SLS is to get its first uncrewed test flight in 2017, and its first crewed flight in 2021 or so — opening the way to a rendezvous with a near-Earth asteroid by 2025 and journeys to Mars and its moons in the 2030s. A different company, Lockheed Martin, is in charge of developing the Orion crew vehicle that is to fly atop the SLS. NASA estimates that it could spend $18 billion on SLS and Orion by 2017. Some observers, including former NASA official Lori Garver, have said NASA should cancel SLS and instead rely on commercial launch vehicles.

NASA unveils new powerful rocket



— Alan Boyle, NBC News