WASHINGTON — Northrop Grumman announced Jan. 21 it completed a static firing of the strap-on solid booster it developed for United Launch Alliance’s new Vulcan Centaur rocket. 

The test fire of the extended length 63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) took place on Thursday at the company’s facility in Promontory, Utah. 

Northrop Grumman in August completed the first ground test of the GEM 63XL. The motor in August fired at a cold temperature in a qualification test. This latest test was at a hot temperature to validate the motor for flight.

In the Jan. 21 static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to validate the performance capability of the motor, the company said. The firing also verified the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain ballistics and nozzle in high temperatures.

The GEM 63XL version is 72-feet long whereas the GEM 63 motors used by ULA in its Atlas 5 rocket are 66-feet long. The GEM 63XL motors are expected to fly on the Vulcan Centaur rocket in its first launch later this year.

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...