Northrop Grumman [NOC] and Texas-based Firefly Aerospace

are teaming to build a first stage upgrade for the Antares rocket and a new rocket for commerical, civil, and national security purposes.

Scot Lehr, vice president of launch and missile defense systems, said in an Aug. 8 statement that the companies “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.”

“Northrop Grumman and Firefly have been working on a combined strategy and technical development plan to meet current and future launch requirements,” he said.

An Antares rocket lifted the 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station on Feb. 19 for NASA.

The upgraded, domestic-built Antares 330 rocket “will utilize seven of Firefly’s Miranda engines and leverage its composites technology for the first stage structures and tanks, while Northrop Grumman provides its proven avionics and software, upper-stage structures and Castor 30XL motor, as well as proven vehicle integration and launch pad operations,” Northrop Grumman said. “This new stage will also significantly increase Antares mass to orbit capability.”

Firefly has backed the “NewSpace” philosophy of privatized, commercial space flight and increased access to space.

Peter Schumacher, the interim CEO of Firefly, said in the Northrop Grumman statement that Firefly has been a “disrupter” in the NewSpace “industry” and that “collaborating with a proven space pioneer like Northrop Grumman will help us continue that disruption.”

Firefly’s advisory board comprises a number of former DoD heavyweights, including Deborah James, the secretary of the U.S. Air Force between 2013 and 2017, and Robert Cardillo, who served as the sixth director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from 2014 to 2019.