WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman on Aug. 13 completed the first qualification test of a new strap-on rocket motor developed for United Launch Alliance’s future vehicle Vulcan Centaur, the company said.
The static firing of the 63-inch-diameter graphite epoxy motor known as GEM 63XL took place at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Promontory, Utah.
During the test the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to qualify the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle, Charlie Precourt, Northrop Grumman vice president of propulsion systems, said in a news release.
Northrop Grumman last month delivered to ULA three GEM 63 solid rocket motors that will fly later this year on an Atlas 5 vehicle.
The GEM 63 is 66-feet long and the GEM 63XL version is 72-feet long. The GEM 63XL motors will fly on the Vulcan Centaur rocket in 2021.
The GEM strap-on motors were first developed in the early 1980s. The GEM 40 was used in ULA’s Delta 2 launch vehicle. The GEM 46 flew on the Delta 2 Heavy, and the GEM 60 flew on Delta 4 launches before it was retired in 2019.
Northrop Grumman Successfully Completes First Qualification Test of New Rocket Motor for United Launch Alliance
New graphite epoxy motors will help launch ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket beginning in 2021
“Our new GEM 63XL motors leverage its flight-proven heritage while utilizing state-of-the-art manufacturing technology to enhance launch vehicle heavy-lift capabilities,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “The GEM 63XL increases thrust and performance by 15-20 percent compared to a standard GEM 63.”
During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to qualify the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a cold-conditioned environment. This test demonstrated materials and technologies similar to the GEM 63 rocket motor that qualified for flight in October 2019.
Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019 with 100 percent success. The first flight of the GEM 63 motors will be on a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle planned for fourth quarter 2020, and GEM 63XL motors will support the Vulcan rocket in 2021.
A media kit for the ground test can be found here.
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Quelle: Northrop Grumman