EL SEGUNDO, Calif., Dec. 10, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) will help the U.S. Air Force develop and demonstrate technologies critical to a future "aircraft-like" reusable launch vehicle under a contract awarded Dec. 4 by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), Dayton, Ohio.

The 39-month, $5.2 million contract will support AFRL's Future Responsive Access to Space Technologies (FAST) program, an initiative aimed at helping mature the technologies required for future launch vehicles that could place payloads into orbit within hours of identifying new mission requirements.

The new contract also calls for Northrop Grumman to conduct experiments and simulations to validate the activities of a future operations control center, and ground activities required for responsive space operations. The ground experiments will focus on flight operations, mission operations, command and control, vehicle processing and vehicle ground maintenance.

"Northrop Grumman's FAST contract provides a great opportunity for the Air Force to capitalize on our expertise in large systems integration," said Dennis Poulos, director of military space programs for Northrop Grumman's Integrated Systems sector. "By identifying and mitigating risks associated with the ground and operational control segments of this new system, we'll be able to help define an architecture that will give the Air Force a cost-effective, operationally responsive launch capability."

The government's proposed approach for such a "quick response" system is a reusable, uncrewed, rocket-powered launch vehicle that will launch vertically from the ground and land horizontally on a runway. Northrop Grumman's ground operations experiments and simulations will focus on risk reduction in the following areas:

  * Processes used to move the launch vehicle to and from the launch
   pad, and to raise it to its vertical position;
 * Rapid propellant loading; and
 * Post-flight vehicle safing.

The company's FAST experiments related to an operations control center will demonstrate activities that include:

  * Rapid mission planning;
 * Flight operations and control;
 * Resource management;
 * Lean maintenance operations command and control; and
 * Integrated ground operations command and control.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Jim Hart
          Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems
          (310) 331-3616
          Mobile:  (310) 466-5509