Firefly to help build Antares 330 stage after Russian engine supply halted

by | Aug 9, 2022 | Launches, Seradata News, Technology

Northrop Grumman Corporation and launch vehicle manufacturer Firefly Aerospace have joined forces to provide an American-built first-stage upgrade for the Antares 330 rocket, so it is no longer reliant on Russian-built RD-181 engines. The Antares 330 will use seven of Firefly’s Miranda engines in lieu of the current pair of RD-181 engines produced by the Energomash firm. The new engines will continue to have Kerosene and Liquid Oxygen (LOx) as their propellants.

The current RD-181 pair of engines on the Antares 230/230+ originally replaced a pair of Ukrainian-built AJ-26 engines – refurbished Yuzhmash-built NK-33 engines originally developed for the N-1 lunar rocket – after an engine test failure and subsequent engine-related launch failure (losing the Cygnus Orb-3 cargo craft).

Although the RD-181 engines appeared to work well Northrop Grumman has been forced to seek out a replacement following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. The subsequent brutal war, and its related sanctions and countersanctions, led to a halt in the delivery of Russian-built RD-181 engines.

The sign points the way: Antares 230 rocket launches Cygnus NG-11 (Roger Chaffee) on its way to the International Space Station.  The new Antares 330 rocket is expected to look similar. Courtesy: Northrop Grumman

“Through our collaboration, we will first develop a fully domestic version of our Antares rocket, the Antares 330, for Cygnus space station commercial resupply services, followed by an entirely new medium class launch vehicle,” said Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager of launch and missile defence systems at Northrop Grumman.

The stage design uses previously developed composite technology for the first-stage structures and tanks. Northrop Grumman will provide avionics and software, upper-stage structures and a Castor 30XL motor for the second (upper) stage (already used on the Antares 230/230+), as well as vehicle integration and launch-pad operations. The new stage is expected to significantly increase Antares 330’s mass-to-orbit capability from the current payload of 8,000 kg to LEO for the Antares 230+.

Comment by David Todd: Firefly Alpha has yet to make a successful flight, after its maiden flight ended in failure. So, even with different engines, the Firefly Aerospace firm is – as yet – unproven. Still, the new engine solution is likely to be the best one for Northrop Grumman’s Antares 330 first-stage needs. It will work, as long as reliability is achieved and costs are kept low.


About Seradata

Seradata produces the renowned Seradata database. Trusted by over 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, Seradata is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles




nasaspacexecoreviewsissesaArianespacevideochinaFalcon 9v1.2FT Block 525virgin galacticULAfalcon 9RoscosmosevaspacewalkDGAaviation weekInternational Space StationaressoyuzIGTRocket LabBlue OriginBeidouawardsStarlinkspaceSatellite broadcastingAirbus DSrussiaboeingmoonOneWebCargo Return VehicleISROmarsblogresearchspaceshiptwojaxaorionmarsimpactdelayhyperbolaEutelsatdemocratrocketlunarhypertextobamagoogle lunar prizelaunchVegaSESthales alenia spacetourismbarack obamaconstellationfiguresnorthspaceflightIntelsatnode 2fundedRaymond Lygo2009Lockheed MartinExpress MD-2Elon MuskAtlas Vromess2dassault aviationaviationLucy2008wk2sstlukradiosuborbitaltestmissiledocking portexplorationAriane 5 ECAVirgin OrbitinternetLong March 2D/2sts-122ElectronSLSChina Manned Space EngineeringAriane 5Northrop Grummanmissile defensenewspapercotsgalileospace tourismflight2010Long March 4CspaceportExpress AMU 1buildspace stationaltairsoyuz 2-1aProton Minternational astronautical congressshuttlespace shuttlescaled compositesIntelsat 23European Space AgencyLauncherOneCosmosnew yorkrulesAriane 6hanleybudgetatvVietnamshenzhoucongressMojaveboldennew shepardLong March 2CInmarsatOrbital ATKcnesiaclunar landerGuiana Space CenterkscApollolawsUS Air ForceSpace Systems/LoralUK Space AgencyLong March 4BKuaizhou 1AILSdarpaprotonTalulah RileyElectron KSFalcon 9v1.2 Block 5Vega CNorth KoreaeuAstriumSkylonpicturebaseusaastronautdragonlanderfiveeventTelesatSSLAprilSNC50thinterviewLong MarchSea LaunchfalconWednesdaycustomerlinkatlantissuccessor

Stay Informed with Seradata

Stay informed on the latest news, insights, and more from Seradata by signing up for our newsletter.