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Northrop Grumman completes ground testing of ULA’s Vulcan Centaur solid booster



The GEM 63XL engines will fly on ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket in 2021.

WASHINGTON – Northrop Grumman on August 13 completed the first qualification test of a newly developed strap missile engine for United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur futuristic vehicle, the company said.

Static firing of a 63-inch graphite epoxy engine called GEM 63XL took place at Northrop Grumman’s facility in Promontory, Utah.

During the test, the engine operated for about 90 seconds, generating nearly 449,000 pounds of thrust to meet the engine’s internal insulation standards, thrusters, ballistics and nozzles, Charlie Precourt, vice president Northrop Grumman̵

7;s propulsion system chief, said in a press release.

Last month, Northrop Grumman delivered the ULA with three GEM 63 solid missile engines that will fly later this year aboard the Atlas 5 vehicle.

The GEM 63 is 66 feet long and the GEM 63XL version is 72 feet long. The GEM 63XL engine will fly on the Vulcan Centaur missile in 2021.

The GEM-strap motor was first developed in the early 1980s. The GEM 40 was used in the ULA’s Delta 2 launcher. GEM 46 flew over Delta 2 Heavy and GEM 60 flew over Delta 4 before it was retired in 2019.


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