The US Air Force (USAF) has awarded a Launch Services Agreement (LSA) worth approximately $792m to Northrop Grumman to support the service’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) programme.
Under the deal, the company will be responsible for the continued development of the OmegA rocket, which is scheduled for its first launch in 2021.
Awarded by the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center, the agreement is expected to continue until 2024 and includes certification flights of OmegA’s intermediate variant in 2021 and its heavy variant in 2024.
Once developed, the OmegA rocket will offer intermediate to heavy-class launch services for the US Department of Defense, civil government and commercial customers.
Northrop Grumman has completed the major propulsion and structural elements of the rocket and is on schedule to conclude propulsion system ground tests next year.
Northrop Grumman flight systems president Scott Lehr said: “Our new OmegA rocket leverages technologies, capabilities and flight experience gained from decades of successful rocket launches, making it an affordable and reliable choice for national security missions.”
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Together with the USAF, the company has invested more than $300m over the last three years for the development of the weapon system.
The rocket configuration comprises first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters produced by Northrop Grumman, in addition to a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C engine.
With the completion of initial flight tests of the rocket’s intermediate configuration in 2021, the OmegA weapon will be certified for operational EELV missions starting in 2022.
In addition to Northrop, two other companies, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance, have received EELV LSAs from the USAF.
Under the agreements, Blue Origin will be responsible for the development of the New Glenn Launch System. United Launch Alliance will build the Vulcan Centaur Launch System for the USAF.