Alternative processes including Additive Manufacturing help Northrop Grumman reduce lead times by 75% for its solid rocket motor

Northrop Grumman’s SMART Demo static test successfully demonstrates several solid rocket motor innovations at the company’s Promontory, Utah, test area. (Photo Credit: Northrop Grumman) | French: L'essai statique SMART Demo de Northrop Grumman démontre avec succès plusieurs innovations en matière de moteurs à propergol solide dans la zone d'essai de l'entreprise à Promontory, dans l'Utah. (Crédit photo : Northrop Grumman)

Global aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman recently achieved the successful test of its new solid rocket motor. One of the goal of the company was to build one of the most advanced solid rocket motors “with shorter lead times, an expanded supply chain and increased agility.”

The company revealed that using alternative manufacturing materials and processes, they have been able to reduce lead times by 75 percent.

These processes include a new cost-effective solid rocket motor propellant capable of operating at cold temperatures and metal Additive Manufacturing (AM) which was used to manufacture some nozzle parts. As you may know, the company is an advocate of AM for the aerospace industry. They have been flying 3D printed parts since 2005 and until 2022, had around 5,000 3D printed parts altogether in their air vehicles. Apart from an in-house production line, they also work with contract manufacturers and can test the capabilities of new 3D printers in-house.

As part of this project, the reduction in lead times has also been made possible thanks to the reliance on alternative suppliers and new materials that replaced other long-lead materials experiencing challenged supply chains.

Called SMART Demo, the tests revealed that the efforts made to reduce development time and costs and improve motor performance paid off. This is the first in a series of tests that the aerospace company plans to execute on an annual basis as its investments in solid rocket motor development and propulsion will continue.

Northrop Grumman is also developing five new motors concurrently for the first time. As the company anticipates significantly expanding and increasing motor production count by 2030, it is constructing 11 new buildings and modifying 16 more to support new and existing programs.

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