(CBS Seattle) — Boeing has finalized a contract with NASA to develop the core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS), the most powerful rocket ever built.

The reported $2.8 billion contract is for Boeing to be the prime contractor on the SLS core stage which includes the avionics of the project. Additionally the aviation company will study the SLS Exploration Upper Stage, which will further expand mission range and payload capabilities.

Upon completion of the Critical Design Review — the last major review before full production begins — Boeing will begin the project with the goal of having the initial test flight in 2017.

“Our teams have dedicated themselves to ensuring that the SLS – the largest ever — will be built safely, affordably and on time,” Boeing SLS’ Vice President and Program Manager Virginia Barnes. “We are passionate about NASA’s mission to explore deep space. It’s a very personal mission, as well as a national mandate.”

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