Orbital ATK has signed a new cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with the US Air Force’s (USAF) Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC).

The CRADA will enable the certification of the company’s next-generation launch (NGL) system to conduct National Security Space missions.

Orbital ATK Flight Systems Group president Scott Lehr said: “Under this CRADA, Orbital ATK is better able to support SMC in being the guardians of assured access to space.

“We look forward to certifying NGL to launch National Security Space missions.”

The company is currently carrying out production of development hardware for NGL.

“Under this CRADA, Orbital ATK is better able to support SMC in being the guardians of assured access to space.”

To date, Orbital ATK and the USAF have jointly invested more than $200m to manufacture the NGL rocket family.

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The NGL family will share common propulsion, structures and avionics systems with other company programmes, including smaller space launch vehicles and missile defence interceptors, target vehicles, and strategic missile systems.

The next phase of the NGL programme is expected to start after the USAF awards launch services agreements, which is slated to take place in the middle of this year.

The scope of this phase of the project would include full vehicle and launch site development, with work to be carried out at Orbital ATK facilities in Promontory and Magna, Utah, Iuka, Mississippi, Chandler, Arizona, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.