Aerojet Rocketdyne has secured a contract to demonstrate a medium class stage III motor under the US Air Force (USAF) Nuclear Weapons Center’s Propulsion Applications Program (PAP). Under the contract, the company will demonstrate a medium class stage III motor with propulsion technologies, which are applicable to multiple future common strategic propulsion systems. Specifically, the contract covers development, fabrication and demonstration of a full-scale motor, which is designed to replace the ageing SR-73 third stage motors in USAF’s existing Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Calling the contract an important win for the company, Aerojet Rocketdyne Missile Defense and Strategic Systems vice-president Michael Bright said, "It helps maintain critical industrial base capability in solid rocket motor design and development, and provides a cost competitive strategy to sustain the aging Minuteman III missile." The contract also involves a full scale static test of the motor, including a planned thrust termination demonstration. Work under the contract is scheduled to be carried out at the company’s facilities in Sacramento, California, Clearfield, Utah and Gainesville, Virginia, US.
Leveraging the work performed by the air force and Aerojet for Minuteman III modernisation using sustainable and affordable propulsion over the last decade, the new PAP programme will provide a direct replacement solution option for the currently fielded Minuteman III stage III motors. In addition to this, the programme will help in maintenance of the US solid rocket motor industrial base, by employing common, domestically sourced components and materials, and a carbon fibre/resin system for the composite case. The PAP programme primarily aims to deliver a family of affordable, sustainable motors, which can support a wide range of potential air force solutions, including upgrade or replacement of Minuteman III missiles.
Image: A Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in its silo at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, US. Photo: courtesy of DOD Defense Visual Information Center.