Aerospace and defence company Northrop Grumman has shipped three 63in-diameter Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM 63) from its Magna facility in Utah, US.

The GEM 63 rocket motors have been developed under a cooperative agreement with United Launch Alliance (ULA) for its Atlas V rocket.

The motors were delivered to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, US. They will serve as strap-on boosters to maximise thrust on Atlas V.

Each motor is designed to provide 373,000lb of thrust. Around five GEM 63 motors will support a single Atlas V launch.

Northrop Grumman propulsion system vice-president Charlie Precourt said: “Designing a drop-in solution for an existing vehicle is no easy feat.

“As ULA’s largest legacy supplier, we have been providing rocket propulsion to ULA and its heritage companies since 1964 and we are pleased to continue our partnership with this new generation motor.”

Since September 2018, the motors were put through a series of ground tests to secure certification by the US Air Force and ULA.

The first Atlas V flight equipped with three GEM 63 rocket motors is expected to launch later this year.

Northrop Grumman is also developing the GEM 63XL variant, which will support ULA’s Vulcan Centaur launch vehicle.

Earlier this month, Northrop Grumman launched its Minotaur IV space launch vehicle on 15 July from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0B at Nasa’s Wallops Flight Facility.

Minotaur IV was carrying a National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) spacecraft.