NASA awarded ATK [ATK], Dynetics and Northrop Grumman [NOC] contracts totaling $137.3 million to improve the affordability, reliability and performance of an advanced booster for the Space Launch System (SLS), according to a NASA statement.

ATK will demonstrate innovations for a solid-fueled booster. ATK’s contract addresses the key risks associated with low-cost solid propellant boosters, particularly in the areas of composite case design and development, propellant development and characterization, nozzle design and affordability enhancement and avionics and controls development.

Dynetics will demonstrate the use of modern manufacturing techniques to produce and test several primary components of the F-1 rocket engine originally developed for the Apollo program, including the integrated power pack. Dynetics will also demonstrate innovative fabrication techniques for metallic cryogenic tanks.

Northrop Grumman will demonstrate innovative design and manufacturing techniques with low fixed costs and affordable production rates for composite propellant tanks. Independent time and motion studies will compare demonstration affordability data to SLS advanced booster development, production and operations.

Additional contracts, subject to funding availability, may be awarded following successful negotiation of other proposals previously received for this NASA research announcement.

Designed to be flexible for launching payloads and spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will take humans beyond low Earth orbit, SLS will enable the space agency to meet the Obama administration’s goal of sending humans to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars in the 2030s, according to a statement.