Northrop Grumman completes first stage test of OmegA rocket

Stephen Kuper

Northrop Grumman has successfully conducted a full-scale static fire test of the first stage of its new OmegA rocket – with the milestone keeping OmegA on track to perform its first launch in 2021 and begin operational launches of national security payloads in 2022.

During the test, the first stage motor fired for about 122 seconds, producing more than 2 million pounds of maximum thrust – roughly the equivalent to that of eight-and-a-half jumbo jets. The test verified the performance of the motor’s ballistics, insulation and joints as well as control of the nozzle position.

Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager, flight systems, Northrop Grumman, explained, "The OmegA rocket is a top priority and our team is committed to provide the US Air Force with assured access to space for our nation’s most critical payloads. We committed to test the first stage of OmegA in spring 2019, and that’s exactly what we’ve done."

Last October, the US Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $792 million contract to complete detailed design and verification of OmegA and launch sites. This test verified performance of the first stage solid rocket motor for the intermediate version of OmegA.

The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act specified that a domestic next-generation rocket propulsion system "shall be developed by not later than 2019". With the successful test fire, Northrop Grumman demonstrated the company is on track to meet this congressionally-mandated schedule.

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Kent Rominger, OmegA vice president, Northrop Grumman, applauded the OmegA team, saying, "Congratulations to the entire team on today’s successful test. OmegA’s design using flight-proven hardware enables our team to meet our milestones and provide an affordable launch system that meets our customer’s requirements and timeline."

A full-scale static fire test of OmegA’s second stage is planned for later in the year. OmegA’s design leverages flight-proven technologies from Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus, Minotaur and Antares rockets, as well as the company’s interceptors, targets and strategic rockets. Northrop Grumman has conducted nearly 80 successful space launch missions and has decades of experience launching critical payloads for the US Department of Defense, civil and commercial customers.

The company’s vehicle 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 thousands of jobs across the country in its supply chain.

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