Chris Gebhardt over at NASASpaceflight talked with Charlie Precourt of Northrop Grumman and wrote up a fantastic rundown on the status of OmegA.
Surprisingly, OmegA is on track to be the first to fly of the three new launch vehicles bidding for the National Security Space Launch program:
At present, all work is on track for Northrop Grumman to be able to stack the first OmegA rocket in High Bay 2 of the Vehicle Assembly Building in Spring 2021.
Mr. Precourt espoused optimism as to the status of the cryogenic stage, noting it was on track to support stacking operations in Spring 2021 and a first launch shortly thereafter.
I’d love to hear the status of how rough the ride is on OmegA as far as payloads are concerned. That always seemed to be the issue with OmegA.
But either way, OmegA would be ready to go in spring-to-summer 2021. The last we heard of Vulcan had it sitting at mid-to-late summer 2021, but I wouldn’t be shocked to hear that slip to later in the year.
And unfortunately, it looks like New Glenn is headed to 2022.
The contract awards are due to be announced this summer, which will shake things up. It’s not unlikely that OmegA never flies—if it doesn’t make the cut, I can’t see Northrop Grumman pressing forward with it, as they’ve shown very little ability to sell commercial launches and they have plenty of other business ventures to keep them occupied.
Vulcan seems less likely to go that route even if ULA misses out, since all that ULA does is launch, and they’ve got to get off of the RD-180.
Obviously, New Glenn has its future secured as much as any future can be, albeit with more delays than I would have liked to see.
And that right there lies the nugget in all this. I’ve heard from several places that New Glenn has been delayed because of the upstream delays with BE-4, and due to the fact that some people were shifted from the vehicle work over to the engine itself. That has knock-on effects for Vulcan, which also relies on BE-4.
Northrop Grumman is looking mighty smart to steer clear and use a pair of RL10 engines on their upper stage rather than the BE-3U.
I‘m honestly quite shocked how this seems to be turning out.