Spaceflight Insider

First motor segment for new OmegA rocket produced

Orbital ATK technicians prepare the C600 aft segment for casting with inert propellant. Photo & Caption Credit: Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK technicians prepare the C600 forward segment for casting with inert propellant. Photo & Caption Credit: Orbital ATK

The first inert motor segment produced for tests of Orbital ATK’s new OmegA rocket has been completed. This new segment has been designed as part of the Common Boost Segment (CBS) program. This is the latest step in efforts designed to produce new launch vehicles.

According to a release issued by the Dulles, Virginia-based company, the production of the new CASTOR® 600 rocket motor segment was the “largest solid motor casting campaign in Orbital ATK’s history.” 

“I’m proud of our team for the tremendous accomplishment in meeting this milestone for our OmegA rocket,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division said via a company-issued release. “We look forward to our ground tests next year and flight tests in 2021.”

The casting process involves the rocket motor being filled with propellants, the CASTOR® 600 underwent and completed this process last month (April 2018). The CASTOR® 600 CBS motor segments contain 55 propellant mixes each weighing 600 gallons.

The aft portion measures an estimated 12 feet (3.7 meters) in diameter.

Orbital ATK technicians prepare the C600 aft segment for casting with inert propellant. Photo & Caption Credit: Orbital ATK

The CASTOR 600 aft pathfinder is moved by technicians at Orbital ATK’s facilities. Photo Credit: Orbital ATK

The component produced is not a live motor segment, rather, it is a “pathfinder” for the program. However, it was placed under the same development processes as an actual motor segment would undergo. This helps engineers to discover any potential problems and eliminate them prior to full scale production.

The next step in the development process for the CASTOR® 600 is the casting of its inert forward segment. This is currently planned to take place later this summer. If everything proceeds as advertised, three live propellant casts should be produced afterward and static test fires will be conducted.

The CASTOR® 600 is designed to serve as the first stage of the OmegA launch system, with a CASTOR® 300 motor being utilized as the rocket’s second stage.

“It was the largest motor we’ve ever cast and introduced more schedule components, which our team successfully met. We’re working on active, “hot” production lines and developing brand new solid rocket motors at an accelerated pace with very innovative processes. In today’s environment, affordability, performance and reliability are everything,” Mark Beus, Program Manager, Common Boost Segment told SpaceFlight Insider. “You have to have all three.  We have those – and that’s exciting to me.”

Prior to being called OmegA, the launch vehicle was referred to as the Next-Generation Launcher (NGL). Developed for the U.S. Air Force’s Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program, Orbital ATK had been working on OmegA for about three years. EELV has been initiated to produce intermediate to heavy rockets to send defense payloads to their various destinations.

Orbital ATK hopes to launch the first of its OmegA rockets within the next three years. OmegA joins a number of other new rockets that have either begun flying or are scheduled to enter service within the next few years. These include United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan, currently slated to take to the skies sometime in the mid-2020s as well as SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which has been in service and undergoing upgrades since its first flight on June 4, 2010.

 

 

 

 

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Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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