Northrop Grumman Completes Stage Two Motor Test of Sentinel ICBM

Northrop Grumman has completed the live-fire test of a Sentinel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) stage two solid rocket motor in Tennessee.

The activity is part of the US Department of Defense’s effort to replace Washington’s Minuteman III missiles with the LGM-35 Sentinel ground-based strategic deterrent systems.

Preparing Motor Design

Held at the US Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Complex, the test validated the solid rocket motor for high-altitude and space flight scenarios that it will eventually experience once operational.

The demonstration involved a vacuum chamber that simulates real-world environmental conditions.

Data gathered from the trial will be used to identify how the motor matched its desired performance using digitally engineered models for critical and safe design processes.

The company will then begin a series of qualifications for all rocket motor stages developed through the results.

Minuteman III ICBM missile launch
Unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during an operational test in 2017 at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Image: US Air Force/Senior Airman Ian Dudley

“Our successful test moves us forward for qualification testing in partnership with the Air Force,” Northrop Grumman Sentinel VP and Program Manager Sarah Willoughby stated.

“The test’s data gives us an accurate reading of our design’s performance and now informs our modeling and designs.”

“This lowers risk and builds confidence in our approach to deliver the next-generation ICBM capability to the Air Force.”

Recent Milestones

The Pentagon is set to integrate the Sentinel missiles into US military armaments from 2029 through 2075.

In 2023, Northrop Grumman finalized the wind tunnel tests of the LGM-35A missile against speed, load, and atmospheric conditions.

The US Air Force sought a new Sentinel reentry system the same year. During this time, Northrop tested the ICBM’s stage one solid rocket motor.

In 2022, the US Air Force and industry partner Lockheed Martin tested the Minotaur II rocket for its capability as an additional reentry vehicle for the upcoming Sentinel missile at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

The US Army then utilized a future Sentinel radar alongside a Patriot sensor to defeat cruise missile threats during a live-fire demonstration of the agency’s Integrated Air & Missile Defense Battle Command System.

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