Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems [NOC] conducted a largely successful ground test of the first stage of its new OmegA launch vehicle May 30, completing a step toward the goal of reaching first launch by 2021.

The test, which was conducted at the company’s Promontory, Utah facility Thursday and streamed live on the company’s website, involved the first stage motor firing for about 122 seconds and produced more than 2 million pounds of maximum thrust, according to the company.

The first stage of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket in position for a static test fire in Promontory, Utah. The test fire occurred May 30, 2019. Photo: Northrop Grumman

It measured thrust, pressure, strain, temperature, vibration and burn rate in preparation for operational launches beginning in 2022, and more than 700 channels of data were collected during the test. The OmegA first stage is more than 12 feet in diameter and 80 feet long.

Company officials deemed the test successful during a livestreamed press conference Thursday afternoon, although they noted an irregular issue to do with the aft exit cone that occurred at the end of the firing, where parts of the cone appeared to explode away from the launch vehicle.

“We need to pull the data to analyze what exactly happened,” said Kent Rominger, OmegA vice president and Northrop’s vice president of strategic programs. “Quick-look” data analysis will take place Thursday afternoon, but it will take more time to go through the hundreds of data channels to determine the exact cause.

Still, “what we observed today was a very successful test,” Rominger noted. The aft cone issue is not expected to affect Northrop’s schedule to test OmegA’s second stage motor in the August-September timeframe, he added.

OmegA is a new intermediate- to heavy-lift launch vehicle whose development was funded in part by the Air Force via a launch service agreement awarded in October 2018.  The service awarded Northrop a $792 million contract to complete detailed design and verification of OmegA and its launch sites. The company is developing the rocket to compete

in the Air Force’s launch service procurement program to carry national security missions into space over the next decade (Defense Daily, May 6).