Commercial Rocket Motors

Northrop Grumman propulsion systems are employed in the company's Pegasus®, Minotaur, Antares™ and OmegA™ rockets as well as in Delta IV and commercial launch vehicles.

Commercial Motors

CASTOR® Motors

Northrop Grumman developed the CASTOR® 30 family in response to a market need for large-diameter, upper-stage solid rocket motors. The CASTOR family has the flexibility to serve markets as diverse as space launch, Prompt Global Strike (PGS) and Operationally Responsive Space (ORS). These join a heritage of Northrop Grumman CASTOR motors with proven high reliability for more than 50 years. CASTOR 30 motors are based on the CASTOR 120® motor, which has flown on the Taurus® XL, Athena I and Athena II launch vehicles. The CASTOR 30 and CASTOR 30XL motors are currently used as the second stage of the Antares™ launch vehicle performing resupply missions to the International Space Station.

Northrop Grumman currently manufactures a complete line of first- and second-stage and strap-on CASTOR solid rocket motors. The CASTOR heritage was developed from four generations of first-stage ballistic missile boosters and the technology and experience at Northrop Grumman. Detailed information about the entire CASTOR Motor Series can be found in Northrop Grumman’s Propulsion Products Catalog.

Northrop Grumman developed the CASTOR 30 in response to a request for a large-diameter upper stage motor. It was later optimized for use as the upper stage on the Northrop Grumman Antares™ launch vehicle and designated as CASTOR 30B, which was first flown in April 2013. This is an ideal solution for spacecraft insertion on the Antares vehicle.

The CASTOR 30XL is the next step in evolution for the CASTOR 30 line of motors. At 92" diameter, 238" long and 58,000 lbs., this motor is highly optimized for encapsulated flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and commercial spaceflight. Qualification of this motor, from concept through static test, occurred in 23 months.

This variant of the CASTOR 120 predecessor is used as a first or second stage in commercial launch vehicles and provides improved performance over the baseline configuration. A version of this motor was static tested for the U.S. Air Force as part of the Large Class Stage development program, however the motor is being updated to tailor burn rates and improve performance, as well as utilize common materials and processes to improve cost control for launch vehicle providers.

Orion Motors

Flexibility and reliability are key features of this highly successful line of Northrop Grumman motors. The product line started out with the three-stage Pegasus® followed by Taurus® and various Minotaur configurations. The Missile Defense Agency selected the Orion motors as the motors of choice for the Groundbased Midcourse Defense (GMD) vehicle and has since developed target vehicles in the MRBM, ICBM and IRBM classes, all based upon the basic Orion design. More than 200 Orion motors have helped launch nearly 100 launch vehicles.

Orion motors maintain affordability by leveraging common materials and processes with other Northrop Grumman product lines and continually evaluating options to improve production efficiency. Orion's elegantly simple design reduces overall product cost while maintaining exceptional reliability as demonstrated by its successful heritage. Detailed information about the entire Orion Motor Series can be found in Northrop Grumman’s Propulsion Products Catalog.

GEM Motors

Northrop Grumman began Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) development with the GEM 40 for the Delta II launch vehicle and continued supporting customers’ needs for increased capability, continued reliability, and low cost with the GEM 46, GEM 60, and the GEM 63 product lines. Being the largest producer of filament wound rocket motors in the world, Northrop Grumman has focused on state-of-the-art automation, robotics, and process controls to maintain GEM reliability and cost. Detailed information about the entire GEM Motor Series can be found in Northrop Grumman’s Propulsion Products Catalog.

GEM 40 Strap-on Booster System
First flown in 1991, the 40-inch-diameter GEM 40 is a strap-on rocket booster system developed to increase the payload-to-orbit capability of the Delta II vehicle. The GEM 40 flies in three, four or nine-motor configurations, depending on payload requirements. The three-motor and four-motor configurations are ground-ignited. The nine-motor configuration ignites six motors on the ground and three in the air. The GEM 40 also comes in a vectorable nozzle model. 1,003 GEM 40 strap-on boosters helped launch 132 Delta II missions.

GEM 60 Strap-on Booster System
The 60-inch-diameter GEM 60 is a strap-on rocket booster system that flies in two-motor or four-motor configurations, and with either fixed or vectorable nozzles.

The 53-foot motor flew on the inaugural flight of the Delta IV in 2002 in the first two-motor configuration and continues to support Delta IV launches on a regular basis. The first four-motor configuration flew in 2009. Northrop Grumman developed the GEM 60 to increase the payload-to-orbit capability of the Delta IV M+ launch vehicles.

Cast in a single monolithic pour, this motor features a composite case, nose cone and aeroskirt. In the two-booster system configuration, both motors utilize vectorable nozzles, while the four-booster system operates with one fixed and one vectorable nozzle per side. The booster system is flown for the first 80 seconds of flight in either two- or four-motor configurations, providing 560,000 or 1.2 million pounds of thrust.

GEM 63 and GEM 63XL Strap-on Booster System
Northrop Grumman has developed the next generation of the GEM family of strap-on boosters to support intermediate- and large-class space launch vehicles. These boosters build on the company's extensive history of the successful GEM 40, GEM 46 and GEM 60 motors. The GEM 63 and GEM 63XL are capable of supporting national security, science and commercial payloads. Northrop Grumman developed the GEM 63 and GEM 63XL in partnership with ULA and will facilitate launches in 2020 supporting multiple customers. The GEM 63XL variation was designed to provide additional power and will begin supporting launch vehicles in 2021.

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