Making lunar exploration reality. That’s Defining Possible.
From the first lunar lander and the space shuttle boosters, to supplying the International Space Station with vital cargo, Northrop Grumman has pioneered new products and ideas that have been put into orbit, on the Moon, and in deep space for more than 50 years.
As a part of NASA’s Artemis program, we are building on our mission heritage with new innovations to enable NASA to return humans to the moon, with the ultimate goal of human exploration of Mars.
What is Artemis?
NASA’s Artemis program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024, using innovative technologies to explore more of the lunar surface than ever before and establish sustainable exploration by the end of the decade. NASA will then use this knowledge to take the next giant leap – sending astronauts to Mars.
Supporting NASA’s Artemis Program
Northrop Grumman supports NASA’s Artemis program by providing the solid rocket boosters for the NASA Space Launch System and the abort motor and attitude control motor for the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System. Additional information about these motors can be seen below, with detailed information available in the SLS Motors section of Northrop Grumman’s Propulsion Products Catalog.
We’re also building the Habitat and Logistics Outpost (HALO) module for NASA’s lunar gateway. Finally, Northrop Grumman is part of the Human Landing System National Team led by Blue Origin with partners Lockheed Martin and Draper.We are providing the Transfer Element that will lower the lunar lander from NASA’s Gateway to low lunar orbit before disconnecting for the lander’s actual descent. This vehicle is based on the company’s highly successful Cygnus spacecraft.
Space Launch System Boosters
Northrop Grumman manufactures the five-segment solid rocket boosters for the NASA Space Launch System (SLS). These are the largest human-rated solid rocket boosters ever built for flight.
Each motor consists of five rocket motor segments, thrust vector control and an aft exit cone assembly; it is 153 feet long and 12 feet in diameter. The entire booster (including nose cap, frustum, and forward and aft skirts) are approximately 177 feet long. Of the booster’s total weight of 1.6 million pounds, propellant accounts for 1.5 million pounds.
Northrop Grumman conducts full-scale static tests of its motors to qualify upgrades and to ensure flawless operation. A number of quality inspections are also performed throughout the booster’s manufacture, including X-ray, ensuring it will perform exactly as predicted.
The SLS provides a new capability for human exploration beyond Earth orbit. Designed to be flexible for crew or cargo missions, the SLS is safe, affordable and sustainable, to continue America’s journey of discovery from the unique vantage point of space. The SLS will take astronauts farther into space than ever before, while engaging the U.S. aerospace workforce here at home.
Booster Separation Motor
Northrop Grumman’s Booster Separation Motors (BSMs) were rigorously qualified for manned space flight, successfully used on the last 15 space shuttle missions, and are a critical part of NASA’s next-generation Space Launch System (SLS). Four BSMs are installed in the forward frustum of each solid rocket booster, and four are installed in the aft skirt.
Designed to push the spent motors safely away from the core vehicle at staging, all 16 BSMs fire simultaneously at booster separation a little over two minutes into the mission, approximately 25 nautical miles above the earth’s surface. Travelling 3,000 miles per hour at ignition, each BSM provides about 20,000 pounds average thrust over its one-second burn, ensuring successful launch to orbit.
Orion Spacecraft Launch Abort Motor
Northrop Grumman manufactures the main abort motor and attitude control motor that are an integral part of the Launch Abort System for NASA’s Orion spacecraft that will launch atop NASA’s Space Launch System and carry crew to deep space missions. The Space Launch System will incorporate the Launch Abort System to safely lift the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent.
Northrop Grumman, along with NASA and Lockheed Martin, has successfully conducted two qualification ground test firings of the abort motor at the company’s Promontory, Utah, facility. The completion of these milestones brings Orion one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.
Orion Spacecraft Attitude Control Motor
Northrop Grumman’s attitude control motor (ACM) consists of a solid propellant gas generator with eight proportional valves equally spaced around the circumference of the motor. All together, the valves exert up to 7,000 lbs of steering force to the vehicle in any direction.
The ACM’s valve control is fully redundant. The motor has two critical functions: Steer Orion’s launch abort system and crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency and orient the capsule for parachute deployment once cleared from hazard.
Human Landing System
The Blue Origin National Team, which includes Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Draper, was selected by NASA to begin to develop the Artemis Human Landing System which will send the first woman and next man to the Moon. Using existing and in-development technologies provides the head start needed to meet NASA’s goal of landing at the South Pole of the Moon.
Northrop Grumman’s Transfer Element vehicle that delivers the landing system into low lunar orbit for final descent is a critical feature of Blue Origin’s proposed human lander system allowing for expanded payload capacity to the surface of the Moon. This capability will be crucial to maintaining a sustainable presence on the Moon and to future deep space exploration. This team is poised to deliver an innovative and flexible option for returning to the Moon in a safe and sustainable way.
Video: Human Landing System
Habitat and Logistics Outpost
NASA awarded Northrop Grumman a sole source contract to build the Habitat and Logistics Outpost, or HALO, for cislunar orbit. HALO will utilize environmental controls and life support systems to house astronauts during lunar missions. The module will be able to support a crew of four astronauts for up to 30 days and will have command, control and data capabilities, energy storage and power distribution, thermal control, and communications and tracing capabilities. HALO will also feature up to four docking ports for visiting spacecraft, including NASA’s Orion spacecraft and other logistics support vehicles. HALO will enable sustainable and flexible exploration of the Moon and is necessary for future deep exploration mission and the journey to Mars.
Designs for HALO are based on Northrop Grumman’s highly successful Cygnus spacecraft, a human-rated vehicle that is used to carry crew supplies, equipment and scientific experiments to the International Space Station.