Now, the firm and Firefly Aerospace have announced that they will be jointly developing an American-built first-stage upgrade for the Antares rocket and a new medium launch vehicle, according to a press release by the firms published on Monday.
“Through our collaboration, we will first develop a fully domestic version of our Antares rocket, the Antares 330, for Cygnus space station commercial resupply services, followed by an entirely new medium class launch vehicle,” said Scott Lehr, vice president and general manager, launch and missile defense systems, Northrop Grumman. “Northrop Grumman and Firefly have been working on a combined strategy and technical development plan to meet current and future launch requirements.”
There are many advantages to the new collaboration. For starters, Firefly’s propulsion technology utilizes the same propellants as the current Antares rocket, which minimizes launch site upgrades. The new Antares 330 will make use of seven of Firefly’s Miranda engines, while Northrop Grumman will provide its proven avionics and software, upper-stage structures, and Castor 30XL motor, as well as proven vehicle integration and launch pad operations. All this will result in an increased mass to orbit capability for the Antares rocket.