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Logo of OmegA
OmegA rocket.jpeg
ManufacturerNorthrop Grumman
Country of originUnited States
Height59.84 m (196.3 ft)
Diameter3.71 m (12.2 ft) first stage
5.25 m (17.2 ft) upper stage
Payload to GTOIntermediate: 4,900 kg (10,800 lb) to 10,100 kg (22,300 lb)[1]
Payload to GEOHeavy: 5,250 kg (11,570 lb) to 7,800 kg (17,200 lb)[1]
Associated rockets
Comparable Preceded by Liberty
Launch history
StatusUnder development
Launch sitesKennedy LC-39B and Vandenberg SLC-6
Total launches0
First flightQ2 2021 (planned)[1][2]
Boosters – GEM-63XLT
No. boosters2 to 6
Diameter1.6 m (63 in)
Specific impulse279.3 s (2.739 km/s)
First stage
MotorCastor 600 (Intermediate) or Castor 1200 (Heavy) Solid Rocket Booster
Second stage
EnginesCastor 300 1-segment Solid Rocket Booster
Third stage
Engines2 × RL-10C-5-1
Thrust101.8 kN (22,890 lbf)
Specific impulse≈450 seconds (vacuum)
FuelLH2 / LOX

OmegA is a medium to heavy-lift launch vehicle in development by Northrop Grumman intended for launching US government national security satellites, funded as part of the United States Space Force NSSL replacement program.[3]

OmegA consists of new composite solid rocket stages with a cryogenic upper stage provided‹See TfM›[failed verification] by Aerojet Rocketdyne[4], replacing earlier plans to use an upper stage engine provided by Blue Origin.[5] OmegA is similar to the defunct Ares I and Liberty projects, both of which consisted of a five segment Space Shuttle Solid Rocket Booster (SRB) and a cryogenic second stage. It is intended to be launched from Kennedy Space Center LC-39B or Vandenberg Air Force Base SLC-6.[6]

OmegA is proposed as a vehicle to launch national security satellites for the United States Space Force and other government agencies, including to geostationary transfer orbit. The launch vehicle could theoretically launch commercial payloads as well, but is not being designed at a price point to make private competitive launches likely. NGIS claimed in 2016 that crewed spacecraft could also be launched, just as the predecessor Ares I and Liberty rockets, which were designed to be able to also launch the Orion space capsule.[7]

As of 2016, development was to get underway only once the Air Force reached a funding decision.[8][7] In October 2018, the Air Force announced that Northrop Grumman was awarded $792 million for initial development of the OmegA launch vehicle.[9]


Orbital ATK's Logo

In January 2016, Orbital ATK was one of two companies awarded funds by the United States Air Force to develop technologies to eliminate dependency on the Russian-made RD-180 rocket engine for US national security payloads.[8] The award was worth an initial $46.9 million, with an option for up to $180.2 million total. This was to be matched by $31.1 million initially, and up to $124.8 million in company funds if all options of the contract are exercised. The contract would fund the development of three technologies in support of the OmegA rocket, then called Next Generation Launcher: the GEM-63XL strap-on booster, a Common Booster Core and an extendable nozzle for the BE-3U upper stage engine. A previous effort, funded by NASA, demonstrated the technology for a composite motor case to replace the metal motor cases used for Space Shuttle SRBs.[10][needs update]

In May 2016, Orbital ATK revealed their plans for the Next Generation Launcher, including the configuration and the intended business case.[6] The Next Generation Launcher intends to make use of existing launch infrastructure at Kennedy Space Center (KSC), including the Vehicle Assembly Building used by the Space Shuttle, with the possibility of polar orbit launches occurring from Vandenberg Air Force Base. NASA began looking for commercial users to operate unused space within the Vehicle Assembly Building in June 2015, and by April 2016, it was announced that Orbital ATK was in negotiations to lease High Bay 2.[11] Orbital ATK claimed that a minimum of 5–6 launches per year would be required to make the rocket profitable. Full development and introduction will be dependent on both demand and funding from the US Air Force. A final "go/no-go decision" to proceed with full development and introduction of the Next Generation Launcher took place in early 2018.[12]‹See TfM›[failed verification]

In April 2017, Orbital ATK revealed that OmegA would be launched from pad 39B at KSC, sharing launch facilities and mobile transporter with the NASA Space Launch System (SLS). The rocket would compete for USAF national security launches and NASA missions. There would be multiple configurations of the launch system, with multiple stages.[13]

In April 2018, Orbital ATK announced that Next Generation Launcher would be named OmegA. Additionally, they revealed the selection of the RL-10C engine over Blue Origin's BE-3U competitor. The intermediate configuration, with a Castor 600 first stage, increased payload to GTO from 8,500 kilograms (18,700 lb) to 10,100 kilograms (22,300 lb). The Castor 1200-powered Heavy configuration increased GEO payload from 7,000 kilograms (15,000 lb) to 7,800 kilograms (17,200 lb) and has a TLI capability of up to 12,300 kg (27,000 lb).[1][4]

Orbital ATK was purchased by Northrop Grumman in 2018, and OmegA became a Northrop Grumman product.

In October 2018, OmegA was awarded a Launch Services Agreement worth $791,601,015 to design, build and launch the first OmegA rockets.[quantify][14]

In late May 2019, while conducting a static fire test of the first stage SRB, an anomaly occurred resulting in the destruction of the SRB nozzle (but not the stage itself).[15] A thorough investigation revealed that the differential pressure between the nozzle's internal pressure and surface pressure following the static fire test was greater than expected; when thrust levels dropped below a critical point upon completion of the static fire, the outside air crushed the nozzle "in an instant, just like a soda can."[16]

In 2019, Northrop Grumman bid the OmegA launch vehicle to the US Air Force for the multi-year block buy launch contract that would cover all US national security launches in 2022–2026.[17][needs update]

Multiple configurations[edit]

The rocket will have two basic configurations, an intermediate and a heavy launch. Both configurations would have a minimum of 2 thrust vectoring GEM-63XLTs for roll control. The intermediate version will have a two segment solid rocket booster (SRB) first stage, a single segment SRB second stage, and a liquid hydrogen fueled third stage. The heavy configuration will have a 4-segment SRB first stage, and the same upper stages.[18] Additional versions are projected to add additional SRBs as side boosters. The SRBs are to share avionics suites with other Orbital ATK rockets to reduce costs.[13]

See also[edit]

  • Ares I, a proposed Constellation program rocket based on an SDLV SRB-derived first stage and a Saturn V-derived J-2X based second stage
  • Liberty (rocket), a proposed rocket based on an SDLV SRB-derived first stage and Ariane 5-derived Vulcain 2 based second stage


  1. ^ a b c d "OmegA Factsheet" (PDF). Northrop Grumman. Retrieved 24 October 2019.
  3. ^ "Orbital ATK". Twitter. Retrieved 17 April 2018.
  4. ^ a b Erwin, Sandra; Berger, Brian (16 April 2018). "Orbital ATK selects Aerojet Rocketdyne's RL10C for newly christened OmegA rocket". SpaceNews. Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  5. ^ Irene Klotz (24 May 2016). "Orbital planning new rocket to compete for U.S. military launches". Reuters. Yahoo Finance.
  6. ^ a b Erwin, Sandra (26 October 2019). "Northrop Grumman to launch OmegA rocket from ULA's Delta 4 pad at Vandenberg". Spaceflight Now.
  7. ^ a b "General James B. Armor". The Space Show. Episode 2804. 31 October 2016.
  8. ^ a b Mike Gruss (13 January 2016). "Orbital ATK, SpaceX Win Air Force Propulsion Contracts".
  9. ^ Erwin, Sandra (2018-10-10). "Air Force awards launch vehicle development contracts to Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, ULA -". Retrieved 2018-10-11.
  10. ^ Jason Rhian (7 December 2013). "One-on-One with ATK's Charlie Precourt about composite materials and NASA's Space Launch System". SpaceFlight Insider.
  11. ^ Stephen Clark (21 April 2016). "Orbital ATK eyes Kennedy Space Center as home of potential new launcher". Spaceflight Now.
  12. ^ Jeff Foust (10 March 2017). "Orbital ATK expects decision on new rocket by early 2018". SpaceNews.
  13. ^ a b James Dean (6 April 2017). "Orbital ATK optimistic about proposed KSC rocket". Florida Today.
  14. ^ Sandra Erwin (10 October 2018). "Air Force Awards Launch Vehicle Development Contracts to Blue Origin Northrop Grummand ULA". Space News.
  15. ^ Emre Kelly (30 May 2019). "Anomaly after Northrop Grumman successfully test fires Omega rocket in Utah". Florida Today.
  16. ^ Smith, Jeffrey L. (13 July 2020). "CSI: Rocket Science". The Space Review. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  17. ^ Berger, Eric (12 August 2019). "Four rocket companies are competing for Air Force funding, and it is war". Ars Technica. Retrieved 21 August 2019. The bet by Northrop is that the US military, through its national security launch contract, would want to support one of the nation's most critical suppliers of solid-rocket motors for intercontinental ballistic missiles. Northrop officials have not said whether they would continue development of the Omega rocket if Northrop were to lose out on the Air Force contract.
  18. ^ "OmegA Factsheet" (PDF). Northrop Grumman.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Single-stick SRB-based LV
Succeeded by