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NASA is showering Boeing with cash for delayed SLS rocket

Published Oct 17th, 2019 7:06PM EDT
sls contract
Image: Shutterstock

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Going to the Moon isn’t cheap, no matter how far ahead you can plan for it. Going to the Moon on a dramatically-shortened timeline? Well, that can be even more expensive, and with NASA revealing that it’s close to striking a deal with manufacturer Boeing for up to 10 SLS rocket core stages for the Artemis mission program, it’s clear that the agency is feeling particularly generous.

As Ars Technica reports, the contracts that are close to being inked between Boeing and NASA will likely offer special incentives and fees for the company despite the rocket’s already lengthy development.

NASA is obviously excited about being so close to a deal for hardware that will support up to ten of its upcoming missions, but the specifics of the deal are notably absent from NASA’s posts on the matter.

A NASA spokesperson told Ars Technica that the agency expects that the contract will include “cost-plus” language. Cost-plus is exactly what it sounds like: NASA will pay for the cost of producing the rocket stages plus additional fees.

These types of bonuses are typically used to sweeten the deal when NASA desperately needs something and is willing to pay extra to get a contractor to agree to it. The SLS rocket has been in development for nearly a decade already, and NASA already has already forked over a whole lot of cash for its development. Offering Boeing such bonuses for more units of a rocket that is already being built is, well, atypical.

NASA did say that it expects that fixed-price production will be an option in the future, but for the time being the agency seems perfectly happy to continue to dump extra cash on Boeing for its rocket development despite constant delays and accusations of mismanagement. This is what happens when politics and science collide.

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