Aerojet Rocketdyne will have something to be thankful for after all this Thanksgiving: a pair of new space contracts worth a combined $1.4 billion.
NASA announced Nov. 23 it has awarded the Rancho Cordova, Calif.-based rocket engine company a $1.16 billion contract to produce engines for its Space Launch System. SLS is the agency’s next-gen rocket for deep-space missions to Mars and beyond.
SLS will use four RS-25 engines to carry NASA’s manned Orion spacecraft on missions expected also to include the exploration of lunar-orbit asteroids.
The first four SLS missions will be flown using 16 upgraded engines from past missions. Aerojet Rocketdyne will modify the legacy engines for use on SLS, with its contract to run through Sept. 30, 2024.
The contract allows for NASA to order up to six additional modified engines, if necessary.
Engine testing will be done at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, and SLS will launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Aerojet expects to do most of the work on the engine modifications at its Canoga Park, Calif., facility in suburban Los Angeles.
Also Nov. 23, Aerojet was chosen by Boeing to provide propulsion systems for spacecraft to be used in shuttle missions to the International Space Station. That contract — involving Boeing’s new CST-100 Starliner — was valued at roughly $200 million.
The pair of contracts represented welcome good news for Aerojet after a series of recent business setbacks. Those include having to pay $50 million in September to settle a dispute with Orbital ATK, whose engine bearing Aerojet propulsion components exploded on Oct. 28, 2014.