Northrop Grumman’s Rocket Design Heritage

Northrop Grumman's proud heritage in rocket design and production began in the 1950s. Since then, the company's propulsion technology has boosted several high-profile programs for the U.S. military, civil and commercial partners including Minuteman, Project Mercury, Apollo and Shuttle programs — and now the U.S. Air Force's National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. The OmegA rocket design builds on decades of industry experience and the company's proven track record for reliability and affordability to expand Northrop Grumman's existing capabilities while providing the U.S. Air Force with a low-risk, affordable option for launching payloads into space.

people watching rocket motor test in desert

Solid Rocket Motors

For the entirety of NASA's Space Shuttle Program, Northrop Grumman-produced solid rocket motors boosted the shuttle to orbit, each providing more than 2.5 million pounds of thrust to help escape Earth's gravity. Today, the company manufactures the boosters for NASA's new heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System. These 5-segment boosters are the largest, most powerful solid rocket motors ever built, each providing 3.6 million pounds of thrust.

A lineup of Northrop Grumman's Pegasus, Minotaur, Antares, OmegA and SLS Boosters.

Space Launch Vehicles

Northrop Grumman is the only U.S. company to provide a full family of small-, medium- and large-class rockets. In 1990, the company developed Pegasus™, the world's first privately developed, air-launched rocket, to place satellites in orbit. Northrop Grumman built on the technology used for Pegasus to develop its first line of ground-launched rockets: the Minotaur series. These rockets combine decommissioned Peacekeeper motors with Pegasus upper stages, proven avionics and fairings to provide increased lift capability for government-sponsored payloads. In 2013, Northrop Grumman introduced Antares, its first medium-class rocket, to the market. Antares launches solely out of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, and has successfully launched more than ten cargo delivery missions to the International Space Station.


Northrop Grumman manufactures the OmegA rocket’s first composite fairing using an automated dockable gantry system. (March 2020)

Modern Production

Today, Northrop Grumman uses many facilities that have supported heritage programs and have been completely refurbished. Other facilities are new and incorporate automation to improve safety and repeatability. In both cases, Northrop Grumman applies lean manufacturing principles to optimize efficiencies. Through automation and commonality across programs, Northrop Grumman increases affordability while providing reliable launch vehicles for government and commercial customers.

Learn more about Northrop Grumman in space >

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