Orbital ATK has secured a contract from the US Air Force (USAF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) to support the evolved expendable launch vehicle (EELV) programme for national security space missions.
Valued at $47m, the deal will see the company develop a solid rocket propulsion system prototype to support the EELV programme.
Additionally, the company can supplement development funds to the programme.
Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division vice-president and general manager Charlie Precourt said: "All the best features of solid motors, including operational reliability, high lift-off thrust, shorter development schedules and, importantly, affordability have improved over time with the advancement of new technologies.
"This means we can offer the Air Force a low technical risk and very cost-competitive American-made propulsion alternative."
"We are honoured to be selected to develop this capability to help the Air Force achieve low-cost assured access for national security space launch requirements."
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The three-year contract is expected to enhance domestic propulsion technologies.
Used in space launch vehicle, solid propulsion plays a key role in US strategic and missile defence systems, while the new solid rocket motor technology is considered important for a smooth lift for payloads on sensitive satellites.
Orbital ATK has provided more than 16,000 US-built solid rocket motors and integrated stages for government and commercial customers.
Work under the contract will be carried out at the company’s facilities in Magna, Utah; Iuka, Mississippi; and Chandler, Arizona.
The EELV is the USAF space lift modernisation programme to increase the space launch industry’s competitiveness and implement acquisition reform initiatives at reduced costs and deployment of commercial launch services.
Last year, Boeing and Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA) awarded a contract to Orbital ATK to support the EELV programme.
The contract required Orbital to supply 19m-long composite structures ranging from 4m to 5.5m in diameter for use on the Atlas V and Delta IV vehicles.
Image: The Delta IV launch system in active use at SLC-37. Photo: courtesy of NASA / Tony Gray, Gina Mitchell.