A Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems OmegA rocket suffered an explosive anomaly during a key static fire test. The anomaly occurred towards the end of the test and resulted in the destruction of the rocket’s engine bell.
The first full-scale static fire test of the first stage of the OmegA rocket was conducted at Northrop Grumman’s test facility in Promontory, Utah on May 30. The solid-fueled rocket was fired for roughly 122 seconds producing 8,900 kilonewtons (2 million pounds) of maximum thrust, the equivalent of eight-and-a-half jumbo jets at full tilt.
Approximately four seconds before engine cut off, an explosive anomaly occurred at the engine’s nozzle. It continued to fire for the final four seconds before the powerful blast of flames subsided. Once they did, it became clear that the rocket’s engine bell was severally damaged.
Despite the anomaly destroying the rocket’s engine bell, a Northrop Grumman press release hailed the test as a success.
“Congratulations to the entire team on today’s successful test,” said Kent Rominger, OmegA vice president at Northrop Grumman. “OmegA’s design using flight-proven hardware enables our team to meet our milestones and provide an affordable launch system that meets our customer’s requirements and timeline.”
The press release continued to claim the “milestone” ensured the rocket would be ready for its maiden flight in 2021. This seems unlikely given that, at very least, Northrop Grumman will need to conduct an investigation into the anomaly that could take several months, months needed for development and critical testing.