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ULA Orders $2B in Northrop Grumman GEM Motors to Support Project Kuiper Launches 

By Rachel Jewett | June 8, 2022

Northrop Grumman finalizes contract for GEM rocket motors for ULA.

United Launch Alliance (ULA) placed an order for Northrop Grumman’s Graphite Epoxy Motor (GEM) motors worth more than $2 billion to support launches for Amazon’s Project Kuiper constellation. 

The award, announced Wednesday, is for increased production of the 63-inch-diameter GEM 63 solid rocket booster and the extended length variation, GEM 63XL. The contract also includes a significant facility expansion to modernize current and new state-of-the-art facilities and tooling.

GEM 63 solid rocket boosters have supported four ULA Atlas V launches, and the GEM 63XL booster is scheduled to support ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket later this year in the extended length variation’s first flight. 

Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy Warden previewed this award during the company’s latest financial results, and said it was expected during the quarter. 

In April, Amazon awarded ULA, Arianespace, and Blue Origin contracts to provide a combined 83 launches for its Kuiper Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation. This includes 38 launches on ULA’s Vulcan rocket. ULA CEO Tory Bruno said at the time this would lead to increases in facilities and production capability at ULA and industry partners Beyond Gravity (formerly RUAG Space), Aerojet Rocketdyne, Blue Origin, and Northrop Grumman. 

“We are going to essentially be doubling America’s launch industrial base,” Bruno said in April. “This is a big impact for our country, and for our Western alliances to be able to keep up with this truly amazing constellation. We’re pretty excited about what it means for the launch industry.” 

ULA previously placed the largest-ever RL10 engine contract with ​​Aerojet Rocketdyne to support the missions.