After the US Department of Defense (US DoD) selected only  United Launch Alliance (ULA) and SpaceX for National Security Space Launch Phase 2 launches covering 2022-2027, unsuccessful bidder Northrop Grumman has decided to formally end the development programme of its planned OmegA rocket which it bid with. It will not be appealing the result of the selection.  Capable of carrying payloads in a range of  4,900 – 10,100 kg to a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), Northrop Grumman was designing the OmegA rocket, which used solid rockets as its first, second and booster stages with an RL-10C-5-1 engine powered cryogenic upper stage, was specifically designed to capture a slice of the lucrative US government launch market.

Artist’s impression of OmegA rocket in flight. Courtesy: Northrop Grumman

The US DoD had previously been funding three competitors, ULA, Blue Origin and Northrop Grumman though its Launch Services Agreements (LSA) – (SpaceX was not the recipient of an LSA). These LSAs were valued at US$500 million for Blue Origin, US$792 million for Northrop and US$967 million for ULA. Now that the Phase 2 awards have been made, the development funding for the two unsuccessful bidders is ended.

While the Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos-backed Blue Origin was also an unsuccessful bidder, it is expected to continue with the development of the New Glenn rocket. It already has several commercial contracts signed to the rocket.  The evelopment of its main engine, the BE-4, is also being co-funded by ULA which plans to fly it on its Vulcan rocket.

Post Script: It was not all bad news for Northrop Grumman this month. Under a US$13.3 billion contract, the firm has been selected by the US DoD to supply the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) intercontinental range ballistic missile to replace the venerable Minuteman III. Some 450 missiles wil make up the contract.

Matt Wilson contributed to this story.