Northrop Grumman software to design AF rocket engines

Northrop Grumman Corp. won an Air Force contract to develop software tools for designing a new upper-stage rocket engine.

The nine-month contract is for $2.6 million, but could be worth $44 million if all testing options are exercised, the Los Angeles-based company said.

Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector will develop the tools for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., as part of the Upper Stage Engine Technology program. The tools will be used to design a 40,000-pound thrust-class engine that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen as propellants.

The new engine will succeed the RL-10, which has been used to propel spacecraft into orbit for nearly 40 years.

Tom Romesser, vice president of technology development for Northrop Grumman Space Technology, said his group will draw on its experience with propulsion "to help ensure our country's continuing viable access to space."

The Air Force has established goals to double space- and missile-propulsion capability while significantly decreasing manufacturing and maintenance costs by 2010.

Under the program, all technologies will be demonstrated by hot-fire testing in five years.

Northrop Grumman's team members on the project are Allison Advanced Development Co., Indianapolis; Concepts NREC Inc., White River Junction, Vt.; Barber-Nichols Inc., Arvada, Colo.; Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; Sierra Engineering Inc., Carson City, Nev.; and D&E Propulsion and Power Inc., Mims, Fla.

Northrop Grumman ranked No. 2 on Washington Technology's 2003 Top 100 list, which measures federal contracting revenue.

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