<pre><pre>Northrop Grumman & # 39; s new rocket suffers from a small explosion during the first major ignition test

Northrop Grumman & # 39; s first major test of his future OmegA rocket appears to have ended in a small explosion. Today, the company the main engine fired on the rocket during a ground test in Utah. Towards the end of the test, part of the vehicle's engine burst and sent pieces of hardware.


Today's test is what is known as a static fire when the engine of a rocket is ignited while the vehicle is held firmly on the ground. Northrop Grumman conducted the very first static fire test of the first phase of the OmegA – the main body of the rocket with the primary engine at the end. The first phase was lit horizontally at the Northrop Grumman Test Facility in Promontory, Utah, with the aim of testing all rocket systems as a functioning unit.

The ignition lasted no less than 122 seconds, sending flames and gas clouds into the Utah desert. But just before the fire was shut off, the mouthpiece of the OmegA engine – the large cylindrical cone through which gas and fire flow – seemed explosive. Northrop Grumman claims that the test was still successful despite "an observation noted at the end of the test," involving the nozzle.

An artistic representation of the OmegA rocket by Northrop Grumman
Image: Northrop Grumman

"Right at the end of the engine start, we observed the exit cone and maybe some of it was a little weird for us to look further," Kent Rominger, a former Northrop Grumman astronaut and vice president and capture lead for OmegA launch system , said during a press conference after the shooting. When asked what would happen if the same failure occurred during a flight, Rominger said they should review the data again. "What we saw was right at the end of the tail – means you had a very normal, nominal thrust profile," Rominger said. "But the truth is that we have to collect the data to analyze that."

The OmegA is the next generation rocket from Northrop Grumman, derived from the solid rocket boosters used to launch the Space Shuttle. The company has developed the rocket to launch payloads for the US government. In November, Northrop Grumman received $ 791.6 million from the US Air Force for the further development of the OmegA, allowing the missile to launch potential national security charges in the future. The Air Force will soon select two companies to launch all the satellites of the army between 2022 and 2026 – and Northrop Grumman is one of the four companies that will bid on those contracts.

Rominger noted that anomalies such as these are the reason why companies test their rockets before flying. "We will dig into this data and see what it tells us," he said.