Northrop Grumman-Built Spacecraft and Rocket Support
On 7 December, a United Launch Alliance (ULA) ATLAS V rocket launched the Northrop Grumman-built Space Test Program Satellite (STPSat)-6 and the Long Duration Propulsive Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA), known as LDPE-1, into orbit in support of STP-3. The company also provided critical components to the ATLAS V rocket, continuing more than three decades’ support to the programme.
Built on Northrop Grumman’s highly successful LEOStar-3 platform, STPSat-6 is the primary spacecraft for the STP-3 mission, which supports advanced communications capabilities, the collection of space weather data and nuclear detonation detection in the Earth’s atmosphere or in near space. LDPE-1 was built using Northrop Grumman’s ESPAStar bus and hosts diverse payloads for the government, offering affordable ridesharing services to the US Space Force.
“STPSat-6 and LDPE both provide flexible and cost-effective access to space while supporting critical technology development and operational payloads,” said Blake Bullock, VP, National Security Systems. “Northrop Grumman’s ESPAStar flexible, modular product line enables us to provide mission-critical solutions for today’s rapid-response space environment.”
STPSat-6 carries several payloads for the DoD, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and NASA, including the Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System (SABRS-3), NASA’s Laser Communication Relay Demonstration (LCRD) and several experiments from the DoD Space Experiments Review Board.
Northrop Grumman also provides key elements in ULA’s ATLAS V launch vehicle. The 63in-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM 63) solid rocket motors were used for the first time since their inaugural flight in November 2020. Five strap-on boosters were used in this launch, each contributing 371,500lbs maximum thrust. The company also manufactured the ATLAS V rocket’s reaction control system propellant tanks and eight retro motors that assist first and second stage separation.
Using advanced fiber placement manufacturing and automated inspection techniques, Northrop Grumman produced the composite heat shield that provides essential protection to the ULA ATLAS V first stage engine, the Centaur Interstage Adapter that houses the second stage engine, and the broadtail that adapts from the core vehicle to the 5m-diameter fairing.