Orbital ATK is considering Launch Pad 39B at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, as a potential launch site for its new OmegA rocket. (Image source: Northrop Grumman).

Northrop Grumman wins $792M to deliver intermediate, heavy versions of OmegA space launch vehicle

In its initial configuration, the new launch vehicle will have the capacity to deliver up to 10,100 kilograms of payload to geostationary transfer orbit and up to 7,800 kilograms to geostationary equatorial orbit.
Northrop Grumman Corporation of Falls Church, Va. received a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) worth approximately $792 million of government investment from the United States Air Force (USAF) Space and Missile Systems Center to continue development of its OmegA rocket for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The agreement runs through 2024 and includes certification flights of OmegA’s intermediate variant in 2021 and its heavy variant in 2024.

OmegA will provide intermediate- to heavy-class launch services for the Department of Defense, civil government, and commercial customers. With major propulsion and structural elements of OmegA already complete, Northrop Grumman is on schedule to complete propulsion system ground tests in 2019 and conduct its first launch in 2021.

The OmegA solid rocket motors were prepared for static test firing at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Promontory, Utah. (Image source: Northrop Grumman)

“We are pleased to receive this follow-on award from the Air Force,” says Scott Lehr, president, flight systems, Northrop Grumman. “Our new OmegA rocket leverages technologies, capabilities and flight experience gained from decades of successful rocket launches, making it an affordable and reliable choice for national security missions.”

Over the last three years, Northrop Grumman and the USAF have together invested more than $300 million in developing the OmegA rocket.

The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C engine.

SAE International recently covered the completion of the first OmegaA live motor cast. The casting of the aft motor segment, the CASTOR 600 (C600), follows the completion of an inert cast in April, which marked the largest solid rocket motor casting campaign in Northrop Grumman history.

Related: Northrop Grumman completes first live motor cast for OmegA rocket

The first static test for the program is a C600, consisting of a forward and an aft segment mated together, and the second is a C300, which is a single segment motor. Both tests are planned for 2019 and will verify the first and second stage performance for OmegA’s intermediate vehicle configuration, which will make up the majority of the anticipated flights beginning in 2021. Aerojet Rocketdyne of Sacramento, Calif. Will supply a RL10C engine for the vehicle’s upper stage propulsion system.

After initial flights of its intermediate configuration in 2021, OmegA will be certified for operational EELV missions starting in 2022 with initial heavy configuration flights beginning in 2024.

Northrop Grumman has a long history of launching critical payloads for the Department of Defense, NASA and other customers with the company’s Pegasus, Minotaur, and Antares launch vehicles as well as a wide array of strategic missile interceptors and targets in support of critical national security launch programs.

The company’s development team is working on the program in Arizona, Utah, Mississippi and Louisiana, with launch integration and operations planned at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The program will also support hundreds of jobs across the country in its supply chain.

USAF officials also awarded Blue Origin of Kent, Wash. $500 million to develop the New Glenn rocket and Denver-based United Launch Alliance $967 million for development of the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include 'literally anything that has to do with space,' past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology. And also sportscars.
Contact him regarding any article or collaboration ideas by e-mail at william.kucinski@sae.org.
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