OmegA Rocket Answer to U.S. Air Force Pursuit

Given the requirement for a new, affordable method of launching national security payloads, Northrop Grumman’s OmegA is exactly what the Air Force needs. OmegA is an intermediate- and large-class rocket that increases the capability of Northrop Grumman’s current lineup of flight-proven space launch vehicles. 

The OmegA rocket design leverages automation and commonality of processes and subsystems used in other Northrop Grumman launchers to provide reliability, performance and affordability with streamlined production schedules.

OmegA is one of the company’s largest strategic investments, with Northrop Grumman committing hundreds of millions of dollars – of its own money – to further the development of both the intermediate- and heavy-class variants.

All OmegA components come from existing production lines, many of which support Northrop Grumman's diverse range of launch related products. Leveraging facilities and capabilities used by other Government programs, the increased business base generated by OmegA will save taxpayers $600 million over the next 10 years. Because OmegA’s design draws upon flight-proven technologies used on other Northrop Grumman rockets, common subsystems enable synergies that also reduce technical risk and ensure reliability. 

OmegA's Debut

Major components are already in production, and OmegA is on schedule for first certification launch in 2021 and operational readiness for the intermediate variant of the vehicle in early 2022. This relatively short timeframe to achieve flight readiness is a direct response to meet the Air Force’s need for a new system.

More than 500 employees are working on the rocket right now, and another 500 or so will begin over the coming year. The company has achieved significant milestones already, including the casting (or filling with propellant) of the first inert rocket motor, with the cast of live motors this fall that will be used for ground tests next year.

Northrop Grumman recently selected Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 to serve as OmegA’s third stage engine. The rocket's LOX/Hydrogen stage will include two RL10s. Development of this stage is on track to support the first launch in 2021. Northrop Grumman is planning a vacuum static fire test of the cryogenic stage in early 2021 at NASA’s Plumbrook Facility.

OmegA’s avionics design is mature and based on Northrop Grumman in-house systems that are flown on all of its launch vehicles. Northrop Grumman is planning to use heritage avionics components as well as some new capabilities implementing fault tolerance for OmegA.

Northrop Grumman is in the final stages of an agreement with NASA's Kennedy Space Center to use facilities including High Bay #2 of the Vehicle Assembly Building and a mobile launch platform that will provide the vertical integration infrastructure for assembly and launch of OmegA. The company is working with Vandenberg Air Force Base to establish its West Coast launch site.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 has been selected to serve as OmegA’s third stage engine.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 has been selected to serve as OmegA’s third stage engine.

Proven Technology

One hundred percent of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA vehicle is at Technology Readiness Level (TRL)-6 or higher, meaning that OmegA is designed with technologies that have been demonstrated in similar environments to those that will be experienced on the new vehicle. In many cases, the critical components and technologies are already flight proven.  

One of the most active launch companies in the world, Northrop Grumman has accomplished nearly 100 successful space launch missions for a variety of customers. The company supports all U.S. national security launch programs – building 20 rockets each year, on average, and conducting about 14 rocket launches annually.

Unprecedented Functionality

OmegA’s functionality and adaptability are unprecedented. Nearly every major piece of hardware is manufactured by Northrop Grumman.

Both OmegA variants use CASTOR ® and Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) solid propulsion for tailorability to individual launch requirements. The first stage of the Intermediate series uses the two-segment CASTOR 600 rocket motor, while the Heavy uses the four-segment CASTOR 1200. Thrust for both first stages can be tailored further using up to six GEM 63XL strap-on boosters. 

Both vehicles use the one-segment CASTOR 300 for the second stage, and a liquid engine third stage, provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

The intermediate and heavy variants use a 16-foot-diameter payload fairing. The Intermediate’s fairing is 50 feet long, while the heavy can use either the 50-foot-fairing or a 66-foot-long fairing with enough room for the largest government satellites.

Very soon, the Air Force will announce three launch service agreements to support further development of EELV class launch systems – Northrop Grumman is confident it has an excellent opportunity to be in that group and is looking forward to further development and test flights of OmegA.

With its world-class safety record, mature technologies, modularity and technical capability, Northrop Grumman is an established and proven leader in the launch industry.

Watch the full video of OmegA animation.