Orbital ATK's Flight Systems Group has commenced early production of development hardware for next-generation launch (NGL) systems being provided to the US Air Force (USAF).

This move follows completion of design reviews, facility upgrades, and tooling fabrication for the NGL systems.

The company has completed critical design reviews for major elements of the company’s solid propulsion stages over the past 18 months, along with preliminary vehicle-level and launch site infrastructure reviews.

Commenting on the progress, Orbital ATK Flight Systems Group's president Scott Lehr said: “The NGL programme is a great example of how industry and government can work together to develop an American launch system to support national security space launch requirements.

"The NGL programme is a great example of how industry and government can work together."

“Orbital ATK is well-positioned to introduce an intermediate and large-class family of launch vehicles by leveraging the strengths of the merged company to achieve low-cost assured space access for current and future national security payloads and other satellites.”

The new NGL systems will use the company’s solid rocket propulsion technology and other modular elements to launch a wide range of national security payloads, as well as science and commercial satellites that are too large to be launched by its current fleet of Pegasus, Minotaur, and Antares space launch vehicles.

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These space launch vehicles will share common propulsion, structures, and avionics systems with other company programmes, including its smaller space launch vehicles and missile defence interceptors, as well as target vehicles and strategic missile systems.

The next phase is expected to commence when the USAF awards launch services agreements early next year.

Image: An artist’s conception of Orbital ATK's Next Generation Launcher on pad 39B at Cape Canaveral, Florida, US. Photo: courtesy of Business Wire.