OmegA first flight confirmed for Spring 2021 from Cape Canaveral

Northrop Grumman Signs Customer for First Flight of OmegA
A render of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket on its first flight from pad 39B. OmegA will share the pad with the Space Launch System rockets.

DEC. 13, 2019–In a press release yesterday, Northrop Grumman Corporation announced that Saturn Satellite Networks has chosen their new OmegA launch vehicle to launch up to two satellites on OmegA’s inaugural flight scheduled for spring 2021, from Kennedy Space Center’s Pad 39B.

The OmegA rocket is designed to “expand Northrop Grumman’s launch capabilities beyond our small and medium class rockets [Pegasus, Antares, etc.], which have successfully launched nearly 80 missions, [and expand Northrop Grumman]’s launch capabilities to the intermediate/heavy class with OmegA,” said Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager of flight systems at Northrop Grumman. Lehr states that expanding to the Heavy class will allow NG to better support their customers and expand their national security satellite portfolio.

OmegA is slated to be a national security satellite launcher, and at this time the U.S. Air Force has currently awarded NG $792 million USD in Launch Service Agreements under the National Security Space Launch (NSSL) lifter program. Other lifters in NSSL include United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, Delta IV, and future Vulcan, along with SpaceX’s Falcon 9/Heavy, and Blue Origin’s New Glenn.

The customer of this launch, Saturn Satellite Networks (SSN), is the first to schedule a flight on OmegA. According to SSN CEO Jim Simpson, “[SSN is] excited to launch Saturn’s NationSat on Northrop Grumman’s OmegA launch vehicle’s inaugural mission. OmegA’s performance, payload accommodations, and rigorous certification program assures us it is a great fit for NationSats and our customers.”

SSN is a new company founded in late 2017. Based in Delaware, U.S.A., the company is focusing on building the world’s first space qualified small geostationary orbit satellites, named NationSats.

NationSats are small satellites based off of a fully-digital payload and a 2.5kW satellite bus. The satellites support wide-beam C- and Ku-band transmissions as well as high throughput versions delivering over 80Gbps each. Its high throughput models will cost less than $1 million per Gbps delivered in orbit, ending up with a cost of about $70 million per satellite.

SSN’s goal with NationSats is to provide cheap satellite coverage to the entire world. Tom Choi, executive chairman of SSN, remarks that “We’ve been quietly working on this since the end of 2017, to deliver the most advanced, flexible, and cost optimized GEO satellite platform in the world.” Choi also remarks that “[SSN] hopes to serve as a vital cog in the global effort to bring affordable satellite connectivity to emerging markets in the world and over 150 nations that have not been able to afford satellites in the past.”

Image result for omega rocket
Exploded-view of OmegA and its systems. Up to six GEM63XLT boosters can be used. The upper stage and payload fairing is 5 meters wide, and the upper stage uses an LH2/LOX cryogenic propellant mix. The lower stages are solid. Credit: Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems

OmegA is a new-space lifter by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems designed to “use the most reliable propulsion available to ensure exceptional mission assurance for our customers,” states Charlie Precourt, vice president of propulsion systems at Northrop Grumman. Using fully solid Space Shuttle-derived first and second stages, and a dual-RL-10C51 cryogenic third stage equatable in performance to ULA’s Delta Cryogenic Second Stage-5, OmegA is a powerful yet exceptionally simple lifter.

Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems is a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman, formed after NG bought out Orbital ATK. Their rocket heritage stems back from the Trident D5 SLBM to today’s Antares, Minotaur, Pegasus, and in the future, the Space Launch System boosters and the revolutionary OmegA lifter. Their parent company is a leading global security and defense company, building autonomous systems, cyber, C4ISR, space, strike, and logistics and modernization to customers worldwide. To find out more about Northrop Grumman, visit http://northropgrumman.com. If you would like to read the original press release for yourself, it is available here.

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