The Space and Missile Systems Center awarded a $7.03 million contract to Northrop Grumman to demonstrate new manufacturing technology and a new nozzle cooling approach for rocket engines. The contract is the 10th and final one to be awarded since Nov. 4, 2015, under the Air Force’s overall effort to end reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, which power United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, for national security space launches. The 10 awards total $34.6 million and include $6.19 million to Boeing for an “additively manufactured high pressure engine dome;” $6 million to Aerojet-Rocketdyne “to develop a qualification process for additively manufactured engine parts that does not currently exist;” $5.47 million to Northrop Grumman for “turbopump assembly additive manufacturing;” $3.69 million to Arctic Slope Technical Services to develop a “low-cost, high-performance preburner;” $3.13 million to Orbital ATK “to focus on reducing weight of solid rocket motor case joints and improving reliability;” $935,000 to Johns Hopkins University “to address industry knowledge gaps in propellant characteristics;” $902,000 to Tanner Research, Inc. “to develop an ignition system that can simplify detection of defective solid rocket motors;” $728,000 to Moog Inc. “to develop additive manufacturing technology for propellant control valves for use in a wide range of liquid engine systems;” and $545,000 to Johns Hopkins “to improve performance in next-generation rocket engine thrust chambers and cooling channels,” according to a release. (See also McCain, McCarthy Pen Bill to Limit Use of RD-180s.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.