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Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace Announce New First Stage for Antares Rocket

Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace announce new first stage for Northrop's Antares rocket.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Fri Aug 12 2022Written by Zac Aubert

Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace have announced they will work together to design and develop a new first stage for Northrop's Antares rocket.

They will call the new version the Antares 330, it will feature 7 Miranda engines, which are currently under development by Firefly. The first stage will use Firefly's composites for its propellant tanks and rocket structure.

The upper stage of the Antares 330 will be identical to what we have seen already in the past, using the Castor 30XL solid-fuel motor engine and existing avionics and rocket structures. The Antares 330 will launch from its same launch pad as all previous Antares launches, at Virginia's Mid-Atlantics Regional Spaceport

“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,”

Scott Lehr, Vice President and General Manager of Launch Missile Defense Systems at Northrop

The partnership between Northrop and Firefly solves Northrop's current reliance on Ukrainian and Russian suppliers for the first stage of the Antares rocket; and provides them stability and security to secure future mission for the ISS through the next decade. Northrop's supply of engines has been cut off since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Northrop has already has 2 first stages completed; the first of which is set to launch in October. Northrop will purchase 3 SpaceX Falcon 9 launches for it Cygnus spacecraft to fill the gap in there launch schedule, until the Antares 330 is tested with the first launch set for no earlier than 2024.

The Antares 330 will not be the only rocket Northrop Grumman and Firefly Aerospace will work on together, as they have also announced they will work together to develop a "entirely new" medium-lift launch vehicle. Few details were provide. Firefly is already working on there medium-lift rocket called Beta, which also uses the Miranda engine for it's first stage.

The Miranda engine uses liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants to produce up to 230,000 pounds of thrust. The first flight of the Beta rocket is set for no earlier than 2025.

“Firefly prides itself on being a disrupter in the new space industry and collaborating with a proven space pioneer like Northrop Grumman will help us continue that disruption,”

Peter Schumacher, Interim Chief Executive of Firefly