Reston, Virginia-based contractor Bechtel began construction of NASA’s Mobile Launcher 2, a rocket launch pad that is key to putting people back on the moon for the first time since 1972, and will support the agency’s plans to send humans to Mars, the contractor announced on Aug. 16.
The project, located at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, may cost up to $1.5 billion to build, according to Space News.
The new launcher will rise more than 390 feet and withstand a launch environment of greater than 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit, blast pressures of more than 130 pounds per square inch and more than 8.9 million pounds of thrust, according to the release. Bechtel will design, build and test the launcher as part of its duties.
“I look forward to continuing safe progress on the mobile launcher as we work from bolting to liftoff,” said Felice Presti, a project manager for Bechtel, in the release.
The project is a part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable presence on the moon to prepare for missions to Mars, according to the space agency. The agency has prioritized finding technology partners in recent months, especially as the government gears up to build permanent fixtures on the moon and prepare to travel to Mars.
While the launcher will aid the agency’s mission, it hasn’t been without challenges. The cost-plus contract for the project was originally valued at $383 million, Space News reported, but delays and cost escalations resulted in the current$1.5 billion estimate.
Bechtel did not immediately address Construction Dive’s queries about the reported cost overruns. The contractor told Space News in a statement that it remained committed to the project and supporting NASA.
The launch pad’s first rocket is slated to blast off in the fall of 2028, Space News reported.