Northrop Grumman Corporation has successfully completed its first full-scale static test fire of the LGM-35A Sentinel stage-one solid rocket motor at the company’s test facility in Promontory, Utah. The Air Force plans to replace the fielded Minuteman III nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) with the next-generation Sentinel system currently in development.
This development test will further prove the Sentinel team’s design approach and gain confidence to move to the next stage of testing. The preliminary findings show that the motor fired for the expected duration and met performance parameters and objectives within the expected ranges.
The Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile weapon system is the U.S. Air Force’s program to modernize the land-based leg of the strategic triad, replacing the Minuteman III system that has been in service for more than half a century. The missile features a three-stage booster, with Northrop Grumman developing the first and second stages.
The booster is a new design, using the latest materials and design technologies to ultimately improve performance, reliability, safety, and sustainability.
“This static fire highlights the advances we’ve made in digital engineering and gives us confidence in our ability to translate that into hardware build and test as we continue to make progress on the path to flight testing,” said Sarah Willoughby, vice president, Sentinel, Northrop Grumman. “The results allow us to validate and anchor our stage-one motor performance before entering qualification testing and completing system analyses, the key to lowering risk as we mature the Sentinel design and advance towards critical design review.”
Northrop Grumman also leveraged advanced testing equipment that allowed for increased data collection to better understand motor characteristics.
“Our investments in digital design, test, and advanced manufacturing help to ensure we develop this next-generation missile more affordably and with innovation at its core, delivering to the Air Force a safe, secure, reliable, and flexible capability,” added Willoughby.