. 24/7 Space News .
Northrop says it's on schedule with next-generation OmegA rocket
by Paul Brinkmann
Orlando FL (UPI) Apr 28, 2020

OmegA is an intermediate/heavy-class rocket designed to launch national security missions. It leverages flight-proven technologies that have contributed to nearly 100 successful space launch missions.

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. is on schedule for testing of its next-generation rocket, the OmegA, despite the challenges of operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, a company executive said.

Northrop's OmegA program is the company's entry in a four-way competition with SpaceX, Blue Origin and United Launch Alliance to provide new launch services for military satellites. "We're fortunate to be in a position where we can keep working, despite some problems with obtaining materials from our supply chain," Charlie Precourt, Northrop's vice president and general manager of propulsion systems, said in an interview last week.

Northrop employees in Utah are assembling the rocket while wearing protective gear. They also have built mock-ups of the rocket's components to test shipment and reception of the hardware at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Northrop workers modified part of NASA's huge Vehicle Assembly Building to accommodate the new rocket. They also renovated one of NASA's three mobile launch platforms to fit the OmegA rocket while rolling to the launch pad.

"We have sent everyone home that can work from home - all those who work with computer software and systems," Precourt said. "Those who have to operate the heavy equipment on-site are taking precautions."

Northrop Grumman reported in March that an employee in Florida tested positive for COVID-19, but that was at its office campus in Melbourne, about 40 miles south of the space center. The company did not answer questions about virus tests among the OmegA team.

Spring launch planned
Development of the rocket must continue if Northrop is going to make a spring 2021 launch date for the rocket's first mission.

Colorado-based Saturn Satellite Networks selected the OmegA to launch up to two satellites on the rocket's inaugural flight from Kennedy Space Center's Launch Complex 39B, Northrop announced in December.

OmegA's first stage consists of solid rocket boosters, which Northrop says draw on decades of similar technology used on the space shuttle and Minuteman missiles.

United Launch Alliance is developing the Vulcan rocket, while Blue Origin builds the New Glenn. SpaceX has launched military satellites with its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy.

New rocket systems are required because Congress has outlawed the future use of Russian-made engines on rockets for military missions, and many such missions launched on ULA's Atlas rockets use Russian engines.

Power, size can vary
The OmegA is designed to carry military satellites and to be flexible in terms of power and size, depending on the demands of the mission.

The height of the rocket would vary from 210 feet tall in standard or intermediate configuration to 310 feet for the OmegA Heavy - which would have an additional first-stage solid booster. Strap-on solid boosters could provide additional power.

The first launch is expected during spring 2021 in the intermediate configuration, according to Northrop. The intermediate rocket would produce 2.7 million pounds of thrust, weigh 1.45 million pounds and carry a payload volume equivalent to 10 large pickup trucks.

By comparison, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket produces 1.7 million pounds of thrust at takeoff, and the Falcon Heavy tops out at just over 5.1 million pounds of thrust.

Northrop said using existing facilities in its Utah manufacturing plant and at Kennedy Space Center in Florida help keep costs down.

Precourt said Northrop workers continue to modify one of NASA's three mobile launch platforms to accommodate the OmegA system.

Working from home
NASA employees usually based at the space center in Florida are working from home, except for essential workers, during the pandemic. Workers who remain at the center, including those with Northrop, are taking precautions, Precourt said.

"It turns out where we're at a point in the program, in Florida, that didn't require any NASA personnel for the actual work - only for the usual security they provide," Precourt said.

"The work is mostly on very large-scale cranes and hardware, where people are naturally distanced. They are also wearing masks and gloves whenever possible," he said.

In NASA's firing control room, which oversees launches, Northrop workers continue to fine-tune software, and some of that is done remotely, Precourt said.

"Some access will be required when we get closer to test launches, but hopefully we'll be emerging from the pandemic conditions by then," he said. "We're still looking at being done by the fall, so we can start rehearsals."

Northrop is prepared to ship mock-ups of the rocket's stages to the space center from Utah in May, Precourt said. Crews will use those so-called pathfinder models to rehearse processing rocket components for a rapid turnaround to launch.

According to Northrop, OmegA would be capable of 10 launches per year, but the program could remain financially viable with as few as three per year.

Two systems will win
The Air Force (now Space Force) Space and Missile Systems Center announced in 2019 that it would accept only two of the four rocket systems under development, at some point in 2020.

Northrop received $792 million to continue the development of OmegA. That was part of $2.3 billion in rocket development contracts in 2018 that also went to Blue Origin and ULA. SpaceX, which has certified rockets and contracts for such launches, didn't get money during that award.

The OmegA program is part of an industry-wide retirement and replacement of veteran launch vehicles, said Leena Pivovarova, space analyst with Northern Sky Research in New York City.

Pivovarova noted that Northrop has dealt with cost overruns in recent programs, such as the James Webb Space Telescope. Northrop is the main contractor on the telescope, which has seen project costs increase by 95 percent since 2009, according to a report from the watchdog Government Accountability Office.

"Northrop Grumman is working toward addressing the [historically] high price tag of its launchers," Pivovarova said. "To remain competitive in this changing market, all players are looking to reduce costs."

Supply chain woes
Pivovarova said the entire space industry is suffering supply chain problems during the pandemic, but she didn't have immediate insight into the OmegA rocket development schedule.

In response to questions about OmegA's costs and budget, the company provided a statement that said, "Since we are in the middle of a competition, we aren't able to share competitive cost information."

The solid rocket boosters on OmegA, as opposed to the more common liquid propellant, are a selling point in Northrop's plan, said Chris Quilty, a space industry analyst with Quilty Analytics, based in St. Petersburg, Fla.

That's because keeping solid rocket technology and supply chains strong is important to the Department of Defense, since that is what many missile systems also rely on, he said.

"ULA has a long tradition of launching for the military and a strong lobbying effort," Quilty said of Northrop's competition. "The solid rocket booster industry ... is important for the maintenance of our missile defense systems that also use solid rocket boosters."

Source: United Press International

Related Links
OmegA at Northrop Grumman
Rocket Science News at Space-Travel.Com

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Dream Chaser spaceplane set to get wings
Sparks NV (SPX) Apr 24, 2020
Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC), the global aerospace and national security leader owned by Eren and Fatih Ozmen, uncrated both wings for its Dream Chaser spaceplane this month at the company's Louisville, Colorado production facility. The wings' arrival kicks off the much-anticipated integration phase of a beautiful and critical differentiator for Dream Chaser, the world's only spaceplane owned by a private company and under contract with NASA. "The wings are here and now we truly have butt ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Russian cargo capsule docks with ISS

Getting Down to Earth with CAVES in Space

CASIS welcomes new NASA ISS National Lab program executive

Russian 'Victory Rocket' cargo flight docks at ISS

US Military not sure if Iran's launch of 'military' satellite was successful

Japanese astronaut prepares for flight aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon

Dream Chaser spaceplane set to get wings

Can high-power microwaves reduce the launch cost of space-bound rockets?

Promising signs for Perseverance rover in its quest for past Martian life

Nanocardboard flyers could serve as martian atmospheric probes

Surface Hot Springs May Have Existed on Ancient Mars

Mars 2020 Perseverance rover gets balanced

China's first Mars exploration mission named Tianwen-1

Parachutes guide China's rocket debris safely to earth

China to launch IoT communications satellites named after Wuhan

China's experimental manned spaceship undergoes tests

Elon Musk's SpaceX launches 60 Starlink satellites from Florida

Momentus selected as launch provider for Swarm

SpaceX plans Wednesday Starlink satellite launch from Florida

US wants to mine resources in space, but is it legal?

New Army tech may turn low-cost printers into high-tech producers

Astronauts, robots and the history of fixing and building things in space

Utilizing the impact resistance of the world's hardest concrete for disaster prevention

Papua New Guinea seizes Barrick, Zijin gold mine

ASU scientists lead study of galaxy's 'water worlds'

Yale's EXPRES looks to the skies of a scorching, distant planet

Researchers use 'hot Jupiter' data to mine exoplanet chemistry

Scientists find microbes eating ethane spewing from deep-sea vents

Jupiter probe JUICE: Final integration in full swing

The birth of a "Snowman" at the edge of the Solar System

New Horizons pushing the frontier ever deeper into the Kuiper Belt

Mysteries of Uranus' oddities explained by Japanese astronomers

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.