Northrop Grumman executives stated on August 11 that a year after ceasing production of its OmegA rocket, the company isn’t ruling out a subsequent attempt to re-enter the national security launch market. During a discussion with reporters, Kevin Richardson, director of the launch vehicles business development at the Northrop Grumman, said, “We continue trading different prospects and options available for investing in future technologies, and of course, it’s very much market-driven.”
Orbital ATK announced ambitions to construct a solid-propelled heavy-lift launch vehicle for US national security satellite missions in 2016 before being acquired by the Northrop Grumman company, and in 2018 received almost $800 million in Air Force financing to support the project.
OmegA was a vehicle made up of solid rocket segments with an Aerojet Rocketdyne liquid engine in the upper stage. In Phase 2 of the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program, Northrop Grumman was defeated by SpaceX and United Launch Alliance in 2020.
The company’s principal business, according to Richardson, is national security, but the choice to restart rocket production will be solely driven by market prospects. “That’s something we’re actively trading, not just across the national defense space side of launch vehicles, but across all the numerous payload classes, orbital layers, and the orbital insertion points,” he stated.
The next chance to bid on an NSSL contract will be in 2023, when Space Force expects to solicit bids for Phase 3 launch procurement. Later this month, the launch enterprise of Space Force will host a sector day in Los Angeles for talks on Phase 3 of the NSSL.
Launch and missile defense director at Northrop Grumman, Jo Cangianelli, said firm executives will participate the industry day and be keen to hear about the plans of Space Force for selecting future launch services providers.
Cangianelli stated, “We are going to start looking at what their aims are.” Northrop Grumman would inquire as to whether Space Force is considering “simply extensions of the present deals that they possess today, or whether they’re going to have to look at something beyond that.”
Cangianelli explained, “That’s the trading that we are going to undertake in terms of the level of investment that’s required for moving forward in that sector.” Due to the cost of sustaining a launch vehicle without solid clients on the horizon, industry commentators were not shocked when Northrop Grumman cancelled the OmegA program after completely losing NSSL Phase 2. Most of the profits of Northrop Grumman in the space sector come from the intercontinental ballistic missiles, missile defense interceptors, solid rocket boosters according to Jim McAleese of the McAleese & Associates.