Northrop Grumman provided the rocket boosters for the Aug. 22 successful launch and deployment of the U.S. Air Force’s second Global Positioning System III-series satellite on a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Medium-Plus configuration rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
This launch marks the final flight for Northrop Grumman’s Graphite Epoxy Motors 60 (GEM 60) series rocket motors.
“Northrop Grumman’s long and successful rocket heritage plays an important role in maintaining assured access to space for national security,” said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “As we retire the 100 percent successful GEM 60, we look forward to flying evolved GEM motors on the Atlas V and future vehicles.”
For ULA’s Delta IV M+ configuration rocket, Northrop Grumman provided two 60-inch-diameter GEM 60 motors. At 53 feet long, the boosters burned for 90 seconds and together provided more than 560,000 pounds of thrust.
Northrop Grumman first began developing the GEM 60 motors to increase the payload-to-orbit capability of the Delta IV M+ launch vehicle ahead of its 2002 inaugural launch. This flight marks the final flight of GEM 60 motors after 17 years of 100 percent success. In total, the company manufactured 86 GEM 60 motors to be flown on 26 Delta IV launches.
From the GEM 60 motor, Northrop Grumman developed the 63-inch Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63) and GEM 63XL variations under a cooperative development program with ULA. Up to five GEM 63 strap-on boosters can support a single Atlas V launch vehicle. The first GEM 63 boosters will fly in 2020. The GEM 63XL motor, currently in development, will support ULA’s Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.
Northrop Grumman also produced several components and structures that flew on today’s mission that included: the interstage, centerbody, thermal shield, composite payload fairing, payload attach fitting and the payload attach fitting diaphragm.