Northrop Grumman is building OmegA to launch intermediate to heavy national security payloads for the U.S. Air Force, as well as science and commercial payloads for other customers. Solid rocket motors with lightweight composite cases power the first and second stages. On May 30, 2019, the rocket's first full-scale static test of its first stage was performed and streamed live for the world to watch.
OmegA is a three-stage rocket augmented by adding up to six strap-on boosters. The rocket takes advantage of flight-proven Orbital ATK avionics, software and other components that are common across all its products. The first and second stages are the company’s large-class solid propellant motors with composite cases. These can be configured in various combinations to build first and second stage boosters for intermediate- and heavy-class configurations. OmegA’s cryogenic third stage is powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C engine. The vehicle also incorporates Orbital ATK large composites interstages and five-meter fairing.
OmegA’s first and second stage solid propulsion draws on decades of reliable performance on the Space Shuttle, Minuteman, and Trident (II) D-5, as well as targets and interceptors for missile defense. (Solid rocket motors have a 100 percent success rate over the past 17 years.) OmegA also employs advances in solid rocket technology to ensure sensitive payloads have a smooth ride. Extremely reliable, flight-proven RL10 engines power the cryogenic upper stage.
Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman, said “Northrop Grumman designed OmegA to use the most reliable propulsion available—solid propulsion for the boost stages and flight proven RL10 engines for the upper stage—to ensure exceptional mission assurance for our customers”.
The OmegA launch system leverages existing facilities with excess capacity to manufacture the first and second stages, side-mounted boosters, avionics, liquid upper stages, fairings and interstages. This use of existing facilities results in affordability for customers. For the entirety of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, Northrop Grumman-produced solid rocket motors boosted the shuttle to orbit, each providing more than 2.5 million pounds of thrust to help escape Earth's gravity. Today, the company manufactures the boosters for NASA's new heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System. These 5-segment boosters are the largest, most powerful solid rocket motors ever built, each providing 3.6 million pounds of thrust.
Northrop Grumman employees are highly experienced in launch systems and related technologies. Time and again, customers turn to Northrop Grumman to produce a variety of launch vehicles. And each time, our team demonstrates unrivaled commitment to our customers’ success by meeting milestones, overcoming challenges and delivering on time.
The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act specified that a domestic next-generation rocket propulsion system “shall be developed by not later than 2019.” In April 2018 Orbital ATK revealed further details of its all-American OmegA™ launch vehicle supporting the Evolved, Expandable Launch Vehicle (EEVLV) program for the U.S. Air Force at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs. As one of the company’s largest strategic investments, OmegA will provide intermediate- to heavy-class launch services for the Department of Defense, civil government and commercial customers beginning in three years.
The O and A at the beginning and end of OmegA reflect the Orbital ATK name and company innovation that is found in the vehicle. Similar to the company’s other rockets, which are named after constellations or stars, the name also represents the largest star cluster in the Milky Way. Called Omega Centauri, this cluster contains approximately 10 million stars and a total mass equivalent to 4 million solar masses. It is one of the few star clusters visible to the naked eye. With the addition of OmegA, Orbital ATK is the only company to have operational rockets spanning from interceptors and targets to small-class (Pegasus® and Minotaur), medium-class (Antares™) to now large-class.
On 10 October 2018, the U.S. Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $792 million Launch Services Agreement (LSA) to complete detailed design and verification of the OmegA launch vehicle and launch sites. The Northrop Grumman OmegA program team was one of the three vehicles chosen by the U.S. Air Force to move forward in development of a system that will assure access to space for the nation’s most critical payloads. Over the past three years, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force had together invested more than $300 million in developing the OmegA rocket. Northrop Grumman Corporation received a contract from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center to continue development of its OmegATM 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.
On May 30, 2019 Northrop Grumman successfully conducted a full-scale static fire test of the first stage of its new OmegATM rocket in Promontory, Utah. This milestone kept OmegA on track to perform its first launch in 2021 and begin operational launches of national security payloads in 2022. During today’s test, the first stage motor fired for approximately 122 seconds, producing more than two 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.
On 12 December 2019 Northrop Grumman Corporation announced that Saturn Satellite Networks had selected the OmegA space launch vehicle to launch up to two satellites on the rocket’s inaugural flight scheduled for spring 2021. OmegA will launch from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B and insert the SSN satellites into a geosynchronous transfer orbit.
on 27 February 2020 Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) successfully conducted a full-scale static fire test of the second stage of its OmegA rocket in Promontory, Utah. Developed to support the U.S. Space Force’s National Security Space Launch program, the OmegA Launch System remains on track for its first certification flight in spring 2021. During this test, the second stage motor fired for full-duration, approximately 140 seconds, burning nearly 340,000 pounds of solid propellant to produce upwards of 785,000 pounds of thrust. The test verified the motor’s ballistics and thermal performance as well as steering control and performance in a cold-conditioned environment. The test team collected more than 500 channels of data to aid in verifying the motor.
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