Aerojet Rocketdyne has installed a steel casting bell to support production of large solid rocket motors, marking an important milestone for completion of its Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) facility in Camden, Arkansas, US, the company announced on 12 March 2020.
The vacuum chamber casting bell was relocated from Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Sacramento, California, facility, where it was used to produce large rocket boosters for the Atlas V rocket. In Camden, it will be used to produce large solid rocket motors for programs, including hypersonics and intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Camden facility will be able to produce motors up to 470 inches long and up to 100 inches in diameter.
“The installation of the casting bell is a major milestone as Aerojet Rocketdyne continues to prepare for national security programs, including the Air Force’s Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program and the Missile Defense Agency’s Next Generation Interceptor program,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “I would especially like to thank state and local leaders from the great State of Arkansas whose efforts have been critical to our ongoing expansion here in Camden.”
The casting bell is a vacuum chamber that eliminates air bubbles that can otherwise form when propellant is poured into solid rocket motor casings. The chamber also serves as an oven that heats the propellant during the curing process, and then cools it back down to ambient temperature.
Aerojet Rocketdyne broke ground on its 17,000 square-foot EMD facility in spring 2019 as a part of an ongoing expansion of its Camden operations, where the company has had a presence since 1979. The US$15.5 million state-of-the-art facility is slated to open this spring.
Northrop Grumman selected Aerojet Rocketdyne in 2019 to join its industry team for the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD) program, the U.S. Air Force effort to replace the nation’s current Minuteman III strategic missile fleet. Aerojet Rocketdyne would provide a large solid rocket motor system and a post-boost propulsion system for Northrop Grumman’s nationwide GBSD team.