Northrop Grumman to build its OmegA rocket at NASA’s VAB as first commercial tenant – gpgmail


NASA is celebrating alongside Northrop Grumman at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, as the latter becomes the first commercial partner to make use of the Vehicle Assembly Building on-site at the base. The VAB, as its more commonly known, is a cavernous building that’s used to build and test rockets ahead of rolling them out to nearby launch pads, which was originally constructed by NASA to support the Apollo program.

Northrop Grumman will be using the VAB to build and prep its OmegA launch vehicle, a new rocket the company is building to transport intermediate and heavy payloads to orbit. It’s a fully expendable rocket, which Northrop is positioning as a lower-risk alternative to reusable models flown by competitors (cough SpaceX cough) and it’s also build as an ‘affordable’ option for those seeking launch services. OmegA is designed to help Northrop Grumman compete for future national security launch contracts, as well as support commercial customer missions.

NASA will also continue to use the VAB for the assembly of its own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which will be supporting missions in the Artemis program and transporting the Lockheed Martin-built Orion crew craft to space, and eventually to the Moon.

Kennedy also already plays host to rocket assembly and launch facilities for both SpaceX and Blue Origin, making it a hot spot for public-private space business activity.


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SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA and Northrop Grumman bid for US national security launch contract – gpgmail


The U.S. Air Force is looking to lock in its launch providers for national security satellite missions to take place between 2022 and 2026, and the bids for this so-called “Phase 2” procurement contract are now in. The field of competitors looking to become one of the two companies chosen is a who’s who of U.S. commercial launch providers at the moment, including SpaceX, Blue Origin, ULA and Northrop Grumman.

Both Northrop Grumman and Blue Origin are new entrants in this particular launch contracting area, while SpaceX and ULA are existing providers that handle U.S. national security missions. SpaceX additionally has a bit of a head start, since its Falcon rockets are the only proven, certified launch vehicles included in the bids submitted, while ULA has offered up its new Vulcan Centaur, which is tailor-made for the job but not yet certified and flight-proven; the others are still seeking certification.

“SpaceX means to serve as the Air Force’s long-term provider for space launch, offering existing, certified and proven launch systems capable of carrying out the full spectrum of national security space launch missions and requirements,” said SpaceX COO and president Gwynne Shotwell in an emailed statement, regarding this new bid.

SpaceX clearly sees its Falcon launch system as a key competitive advantage, as it’s flying currently for USAF and national security missions — the company says that this represents the lowest risk for the government overall in terms of providers for this mission, and with known costs, as well.

The Air Force will make its final selection about the two winning providers in 2020.


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Northrup Grumman is among the companies tapped to make the US Army’s drone-killing lasers – gpgmail


Northrop Grumman is going to be working on the U.S. Army’s long-planned drone-killing lasers.

The Army wants to mount 50 kilowatt laser systems on top of its General Dynamics-designed Stryker vehicle as part of its U.S. Army Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) directed energy prototyping initiative.

Basically, the army wants to use these lasers to protect frontline combat troops against drone attacks.

The initiative includes integrating a directed energy weapon system on a Stryker vehicle as a pathfinding effort toward the U.S. Army M-SHORAD objective to provide more comprehensive protection of frontline combat units.

“Northrop Grumman is eager to leverage its portfolio of innovative, proven technologies and integration expertise to accelerate delivery of next-generation protection to our maneuver forces,” said Dan Verwiel, vice president and general manager, missile defense and protective systems, Northrop Grumman, in a statement.

The drone, helicopter, rocket, artillery and mortar defense system that the Army is looking to mount on a group of Stryker all-terrain vehicles could come from either Northrop Grumman or Raytheon, which was also tapped to develop tech for the project.

“The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,” said Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, director of hypersonics, directed energy, space and rapid acquisition, in a statement. “The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army’s modernization plan. This is no longer a research effort or a demonstration effort. It is a strategic combat capability, and we are on the right path to get it in soldiers’ hands.”

For the Army, lasers extend the promise of reducing supply chain hurdles that are associated with conventional kinetic weapons. In May, the Army gave the green light to a strategy for accelerated prototyping and field use of a wide array of lasers for infantry, vehicles and air support.

While Raytheon and Northrop Grumman have both been tapped by the Army, the military will also entertain pitches from other vendors that want to carry out their own research, according to the Army.

It’s a potential $490 million contract for whoever wins the demonstration, and the Army expects to have the vehicles equipped in fiscal year 2022.

“Both the Army and commercial industry have made substantial improvements in the efficiency of high energy lasers — to the point where we can get militarily significant laser power onto a tactically relevant platform,” said Dr. Craig Robin, RCCTO Senior Research Scientist for Directed Energy Applications, in a statement. “Now, we are in position to quickly prototype, compete for the best solution, and deliver to a combat unit.”


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