A major contract from the U.S. Department of Defense will mean a significant boost to operations at Northrop Grumman Corp.’s operations in Utah, including the company’s Innovation Systems campus in Box Elder County.
Northrop Grumman announced last week that the company has received a Launch Services Agreement worth approximately $792 million of government investment from the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center to continue development of its OmegA rocket for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, the next generation of American space launch vehicles after the retirement of the space shuttle several years ago.
While it’s not clear at this point how many new jobs will be added at the Promontory campus because of the new contract, approximately 500 Northrop Grumman employees are currently working on the OmegA program in four states, and that number is expected to grow to about 1,000 employees by 2020. The company’s Innovation Systems division is based in Chandler, Arizona, with much of the work being done at Utah facilities in Promontory, Clearfield and Magna.
The agreement runs through 2024 and includes certification flights of OmegA’s intermediate variant in 2021 and a larger version of the vehicle in 2024.
OmegA will provide intermediate to heavy-class launch services for the Department of Defense, civil government and commercial customers. With major propulsion and structural elements of OmegA already complete, Northrop Grumman is on schedule to complete propulsion system ground tests in 2019 and conduct its first launch in 2021. The vehicle will have launch capability from NASA sites in Southern California as well as Florida.
“We are pleased to receive this follow-on award from the Air Force,” said Scott Lehr, president, flight systems, Northrop Grumman, in a press release. “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.”
Over the last three years, Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Air Force have together invested more than $300 million in developing the OmegA rocket. It is one of the major programs being worked on at Northrop Grumman’s facilities in Utah, where the company has about 2,200 employees, including hundreds in Promontory.
The rocket configuration consists of first and second solid rocket stages and strap-on solid boosters manufactured by Northrop Grumman, and a cryogenic liquid upper stage powered by Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10C engine.
After initial flights of its intermediate configuration in 2021, OmegA will be certified for operational issions starting in 2022 with initial heavy configuration flights beginning in 2024.
Northrop Grumman has a long history of launching critical payloads for the Department of Defense, NASA and other customers with the company’s Pegasus, Minotaur and Antares launch vehicles as well as a wide array of strategic missile interceptors and targets in support of critical national security launch programs.
The company’s development team is working on the program in Arizona, Utah, Mississippi and Louisiana, with launch integration and operations planned at Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The program will also support hundreds of jobs across the country in its supply chain.
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