Rocket built for US Air Force’s national security missions explodes in first test


Aerospace company Northrop Grumman fired the first stage of its OmegA launcher yesterday evening at its facility in Promontory, Utah, US.

The Virginia-based company is developing OmegA to launch payloads for the US government, as well as for commercial missions.

If all goes according to plan, the rocket will perform its first test flight in 2021 and begin operational launches the year following.

But the first firing of the rocket suffered a rather big hitch yesterday.

In footage of the event, part of the booster’s nozzle appears to explode, throwing debris hundreds of metres into the air.

Clouds of smoke can be seen billowing hundreds of metres into the sky.

Once the firing up draws to a close, black clouds begin to plummet out of the back of the rocket.

Despite the seemingly unintended explosion, officials claimed the test went successfully.

The rocket motor performed normally and generated the prescribed 2million pounds of maximum thrust, officials stressed.

Rocket explosion

EXPLOSION: The launch saw the nozzle of the tip explode (Pic: NORTHROP GRUMAN)

“What we observed today was a successful test,” Kent Rominger, OmegA vice president at Northrop Grumman said.

”It appears everything worked very, very well.”

Kent did admit that a portion of the nozzle’s aft exit cone did “something a little strange” before adding “that we need to go further look into”.

The official did add that it was too soon to speculate what caused the issue.

In November, Northrop Grumman received $791.6million from the US Air Force for further development of the OmegA, so that the rocket could potentially launch national security payloads in the future.


TEST: The rocket’s first test saw clouds of smoke fill the sky (Pic: NORTHROP GRUMMAN)

Black clouds of smoke

SMOKE: Black clouds started plummeting into the air at the end of the test (Pic: NORTHROP GRUMMAN )

After clips of the test fire began appearing on social media, dozens of people flooded in to share their shock.

One person wrote: “Close-ups of Northrop Grumman’s OmegA rocket engine after today’s anomaly during testing.

“It looks the nozzle was destroyed.“

Another said: “Replay of an anomaly during OmegA first stage test in Utah.

“This is why you test on the ground before you go to space.”


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