Tag Archives: GEM 63XL

Solid rocket booster

Northrop Grumman Corporation has been awarded a multi-year contract valued at more than $2 billion from United Launch Alliance (ULA) for increased production of its 160-centimeter diameter/63-inch-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63) solid rocket booster and the extended length variation (GEM 63XL). The award, which supports Amazon’s Project Kuiper and additional ULA customers, includes both an increased production rate and significant facility expansion. This will enable Northrop Grumman to increase capacity and allows for the modernization of current and new state-of-the-art facilities and tooling.

Vulcan Centaur
Solid rocket boosters will support existing ULA customers and Amazon’s Project Kuiper

«Northrop Grumman’s GEM 63XL is the longest monolithic, single-cast solid rocket booster ever produced», said Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «Built on decades of expertise, our newest GEM motors provide customers with an affordable, repeatable and reliable product they can trust to boost their most important missions».

The company began development of the fourth- and fifth-generation GEM strap-on boosters in 2015 under a cooperative agreement with ULA to provide additional lift capability for the Atlas V and Vulcan launch vehicles. Leveraging decades of flight-proven heritage while utilizing advanced technologies, teams successfully developed and tested innovative solutions to meet ULA design objectives. Both boosters use common materials and processes to offer a low cost, high-reliability, repeatable product.

The GEM 63 solid rocket booster flew its inaugural flight on ULA’s NROL-101 mission in November 2020. To date, 13 GEM 63 boosters have supported four Atlas V launches, with nine more scheduled to support three more Atlas V launches in 2022. Each booster contributes 371,500 pounds/168,510 kg of additional maximum thrust to the launch vehicle, and up to five boosters can support an Atlas V launch.

The GEM 63XL booster is scheduled to support ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket later this year in the extended length variation’s first flight. Each booster will contribute 463,249 pounds/210,126 kg of additional thrust to the rocket, and as many as six boosters can be used on a single launch to support the vehicle’s heavy-lift capabilities.

Northrop Grumman is a technology company, focused on global security and human discovery. Our pioneering solutions equip our customers with capabilities they need to connect, advance and protect the U.S. and its allies. Driven by a shared purpose to solve our customers’ toughest problems, our 90,000 employees define possible every day.

Test of New Rocket

Northrop Grumman Corporation (NOC) conducted a validation ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter/160-centimetre-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) on January 21 in Promontory. This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

GEM 63XL
Northrop Grumman conducted a validation test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor on January 21 at its Promontory, Utah, facility. The GEM 63XL will support the United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle

«This new motor optimizes our best-in-class technologies and leverages flight-proven solid rocket propulsion designs to provide our customers with the most reliable product», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «Evolving the original GEM 63 design utilizes our decades of GEM strap-on booster expertise while enhancing capabilities for heavy-lift missions».

During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds/203,663 kg of thrust to validate the performance capability of the motor design. Additionally, this firing verified the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a hot-conditioned environment.

Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019. The first GEM 63 motors supported ULA’s Atlas V rocket in November 2020.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

First Qualification Test

Northrop Grumman Corporation conducted its first ground test of an extended length 63-inch-diameter/160-centimeter-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63XL) on August 13, 2020 in Promontory, Utah. This variation of the company’s GEM 63 strap-on booster was developed in partnership with United Launch Alliance (ULA) to provide additional lift capability to the Vulcan Centaur vehicle.

Northrop Grumman conducted the first test of its GEM 63XL rocket motor to serve the United Launch Alliance Vulcan Centaur on August 13 at its Promontory, Utah, facility

«Our new GEM 63XL motors leverage its flight-proven heritage while utilizing state-of-the-art manufacturing technology to enhance launch vehicle heavy-lift capabilities», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. «The GEM 63XL increases thrust and performance by 15-20 percent compared to a standard GEM 63».

During today’s static test, the motor fired for approximately 90 seconds, producing nearly 449,000 pounds/203,663 kg of thrust to qualify the motor’s internal insulation, propellant grain, ballistics and nozzle in a cold-conditioned environment. This test demonstrated materials and technologies similar to the GEM 63 rocket motor that qualified for flight in October 2019.

Northrop Grumman has supplied rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies for a variety of launch vehicles since 1964. The GEM family of strap-on motors was developed starting in the early 1980s with the GEM 40 to support the Delta II launch vehicle. The company then followed with the GEM 46 for the Delta II Heavy, and the GEM 60, which flew 86 motors over 26 Delta IV launches before retiring in 2019 with 100 percent success. The first flight of the GEM 63 motors will be on a ULA Atlas V launch vehicle planned for fourth quarter 2020, and GEM 63XL motors will support the Vulcan rocket in 2021.

Northrop Grumman solves the toughest problems in space, aeronautics, defense and cyberspace to meet the ever evolving needs of our customers worldwide. Our 90,000 employees define possible every day using science, technology and engineering to create and deliver advanced systems, products and services.

The GEM 63XL motor being prepared for static test firing in a Test Area test bay