Aerojet Rocketdyne has been selected by Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control to build an advanced solid rocket motor booster for the second stage of a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) hypersonic weapon system, known as Operational Fires, or OpFires. OpFires aims to develop and demonstrate a ground-launched missile system, enabling hypersonic boost-glide weapons to penetrate modern enemy air defenses and rapidly and precisely engage critical time-sensitive targets from a highly mobile launch platform. Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control are leading the integration effort for the third phase of the program, which is focusing on missile design and maturation, launcher development, and vehicle integration. Aerojet Rocketdyne joins the Lockheed Martin-led OpFires team which includes Dynetics, Northrop Grumman, and Electronic Concepts & Engineering, Inc.
“As we continue actively working with DARPA’s OpFires program to demonstrate a long-term solution for the Army’s medium-range capability, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s innovative variable-range rocket motor now enables OpFires to deliver payloads across the mid-range spectrum with a single, hypersonic missile,” said Jason Reynolds, vice president of Advanced Programs at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control.
“We continue to push the envelope in our hypersonic propulsion technologies, whether by developing a high-performance solid rocket motor that can be turned off on command, like for OpFires, or by incorporating additive manufacturing into our air-breathing scramjet engines to improve affordability,” said Eileen P. Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO, and president.
Before being selected for Phase 3, Aerojet Rocketdyne built and successfully tested a full-scale advanced rocket motor for DARPA in support of Phase 2 of the OpFires program. During the test series, the company demonstrated the solid rocket motor’s ability to terminate thrust on command. Conducted in May at the US Army’s Redstone Test Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, in support of its Phase 2 contractual obligations, the test follows the successful completion of earlier Phase 2 cold gas testing of booster test articles, which were disclosed in July 2020, and a series of Phase 1 subscale propulsion-system test firings in late 2019. The Aerojet Rocketdyne solution provides for a high-performance, solid-fuel ‘throttleable’ rocket motor that can be turned off before burning through all of its fuel, potentially allowing a missile to hit targets located anywhere within a medium-range continuum.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has successfully tested its advanced second-stage solid rocket motor as part of an ongoing series of static propulsion tests in support of Phase 2 of the US DARPA)/ OpFires surface-to-surface tactical hypersonic weapon system development program. In addition to solid rocket motor boosters, Aerojet Rocketdyne provides a broad range of capabilities to support hypersonics, including scramjets and warheads. Having provided both the liquid and solid propulsion systems that powered the Air Force-DARPA-NASA X-51A to hypersonic flight success, Aerojet Rocketdyne is now developing lightweight and robust solid rocket motor cases and incorporating additive manufacturing into its high performance air-breathing systems. Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion systems, both liquid- and solid-fueled, have been at the heart of virtually every major U.S. space and missile program since the dawn of the space age. All company products are manufactured at ISO 9001/AS 9100-certified facilities around the country.