Northrop Grumman achieved a milestone in the Sentinel missile programme, conducting a live, static-fire test of the Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile’s (ICBMs) stage-two solid rocket motor. 

The test, conducted at the US Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Complex, subjected the rocket motor to real-world environmental conditions, important for assessing its performance during high-altitude and space flight.

The data collected from the test will be pivotal in evaluating how the motor’s performance aligns with digitally engineered model predictions, a step in refining the design and mitigating risks. Following this, Northrop Grumman is poised to initiate a series of rocket motor qualification tests for both stages, marking an advancement in the Sentinel programme.

According to GlobalData’s “The Global Missiles & Missile Defense Systems Market 2023-2033” report, the third leading supplier in the North American region will be Northrop Grumman Corp., which is set to hold a 19.7% share over 2023–33.

The Sentinel programme, aimed at modernising the nation’s ground-based strategic triad, is designed to remain viable through 2075. As Northrop Grumman leads a nationwide team in the engineering, manufacturing, and design contracts, the recent success adds another layer of confidence in the project’s progress. The collaboration with the Air Force on EMD milestones hopes to ensure the maturation of the design while minimising risks.

Sarah Willoughby, vice president and programme manager for Sentinel at Northrop Grumman, expressed enthusiasm about the successful test, “Our successful test moves us forward for qualification testing in partnership with the Air Force. 

The test’s data gives us an accurate reading of our design’s performance and now informs our modelling and designs. This lowers risk and builds confidence in our approach to deliver the next-generation ICBM capability to the Air Force.”

In February 2023, Northrop Grumman wrapped up a wind tunnel test campaign for the LGM-35A Sentinel, a step in replacing the ageing Minuteman III. 

A month later, Northrop Grumman completed the first full-scale static test fire of the Sentinel stage-one solid rocket motor at its Promontory test facility in Utah. Conducted as part of the US Air Force’s programme to modernise the land-based leg of the strategic triad, the test validates the design approach and performance parameters.