Northrop Grumman expects a $2 billion order from ULA for solid rocket boosters

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CEO Kathy Warden said the contract is anticipated in the second quarter of 2022

WASHINGTON – Northrop Grumman is anticipating a $2 billion contract from United Launch Alliance for solid rocket boosters, Northrop Grumman’s president and CEO Kathy Warden said April 28.

The contract is expected in the second quarter of 2022, Warden said during a first-quarter earnings call.

The large order for solid rockets comes on the heels of ULA winning one of three contracts to launch Amazon’s Project Kuiper broadband constellation.  ULA CEO Tory Bruno said earlier this month that the company plans to make major investments in its supply chain to support as many as 20 to 25 launches a year of its future vehicle Vulcan Centaur, expected to start flying late this year.  

ULA in 2015 decided to stop buying solid rockets from Aerojet Rocketdyne and selected Orbital ATK (which was later acquired by Northrop Grumman) as its strategic supplier of strap-on motors that burn solid propellant and augment the lifting capacity of the rocket’s first stage. 

Northrop Grumman makes the Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEMs) which ULA has used for decades on its Delta 2 and Delta 4 launch vehicles. 

An extended length 63-inch-diameter GEM 63XL was developed for Vulcan Centaur. The GEM 63XL version is 72-feet long while the GEM 63 motors used in the Atlas 5 rocket are 66-feet long.

ULA will offer Vulcan in four standard configurations including zero, two, four and six solid rocket booster variants.

Warden during the call with analysts reported growing sales for Northrop Grumman’s space business for the first quarter of 2022. 

Overall first-quarter sales for the company, $8.8 billion, are down from $9.2 billion in the first quarter of 2021. Sales of military and civil space systems, $2.8 billion, are up from $2.5 billion a year ago.