Press Release

Northrop Grumman-Led Industry/Government Teams Win Three NASA Awards For Developing Breakthrough Air, Space Technologies

By SpaceRef Editor
July 6, 2004
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif., July 6, 2004 — NASA has honored aerospace industry/U.S. government teams headed by Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) for developing technologies that could help redefine the economics of business air travel over land and increase the performance and payload capabilities of future launch systems.

NASA’s Office of Aeronautics honored a Northrop Grumman/DARPA/NASA team with a 2004 "Turning Goals Into Reality" (TGIR) award for demonstrating how to decrease the intensity of a sonic boom by modifying an aircraft’s shape. A second Northrop Grumman/NASA team was recognized with a TGIR award for defining new ways to manufacture large-scale, high reliability cryogenic fuel tanks from composite materials.

A third company team received a TGIR award for developing second-generation reusable launch vehicle concepts. All three Northrop Grumman teams are part of the company’s Integrated Systems sector.

NASA presents the TGIR awards annually to individuals and teams that have made substantial contributions to achieving agency-level goals. Team members will receive their awards July 14 at presentation ceremonies to be held at NASA headquarters and the National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va.

"These awards reflect the technological leadership and collaborative partnership that Northrop Grumman brings to NASA and the aerospace industry," said Gary Ervin, sector vice president for Air Combat Systems, a business area of Northrop Grumman’s Integrated Systems sector. "From air to space, from manned to unmanned systems, we’re using that innovative spirit to help our customers reach their destinations faster, deliver payloads with greater precision, and return home safely after every mission."

The Northrop Grumman/DARPA/NASA shaped sonic boom demonstration team will share its TGIR award, presented in the Partnership award category, with two other NASA projects that developed new wing technologies. The Northrop Grumman/NASA cryogenic fuel tank team won its TGIR award for developing "New Sources of Technology for NASA."

In August 2003, the Northrop Grumman/DARPA/NASA sonic boom team made aviation history by proving that modifications to the airframe of a supersonic fighter aircraft could decrease significantly the intensity of the sonic boom created by that aircraft. Lowering the intensity of sonic booms could lead to unrestricted supersonic flight over land, which could speed up commercial business travel significantly.

The team proved the theory at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., by conducting back-to-back supersonic flight tests of an F-5E with a modified airframe and an unmodified F-5E aircraft. Comparison of the sound pressure waves created by the two aircraft showed a significant reduction in sonic boom intensity for the modified aircraft. Lessons learned from these test flights could lead to the production of new types of aircraft with noticeably quieter sonic booms.

The Northrop Grumman/NASA cryogenic fuel tank team developed and demonstrated the reliability of new techniques for producing lightweight, composite structures that could safely contain liquid hydrogen, an essential but highly volatile rocket fuel that must be stored and used at minus-423 degrees Fahrenheit. Composite tank structures, which are 10 to 25 percent lighter than comparably sized aluminum tanks, will allow rockets and space exploration vehicles to carry larger payloads.

In November 2003, the team began a test program that will require a composite test tank structure to be filled with liquid hydrogen, subjected it to the internal and external loads experienced during launch, and then drained approximately 40 times. In 20 cycles to date, the team has detected no leaks in the test structure, which validates both the structural integrity of the composite tanks at cryogenic temperatures, and its ability to be reused.

The Northrop Grumman/NASA team’s TGIR award also recognized the development of a new manufacturing process that enables the production of large composite structures without an autoclave. An autoclave is a pressurized oven used to shape, heat and cure composite structures. To date, one of the biggest barriers to producing large composite structures has been the cost of building a suitable autoclave, which is generally proportional to the size of the structure. Between July 2003 and January 2004, the team produced and delivered a 10.5-foot-diameter composite fuel tank half using the non-autoclave process.

Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems is a premier aerospace and defense systems integration organization. Headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., it designs, develops, produces and supports integrated systems and subsystems optimized for use on government networks. For its government and civil customers worldwide, Integrated Systems delivers best-value solutions, products and services that support military and homeland defense missions in the areas of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; space access; battle management command and control; and integrated strike warfare.

LEARN MORE ABOUT US: Northrop Grumman news releases, product information, photos and video clips are available on the Internet at: Information specific to the Integrated Systems sector is available at:

SpaceRef staff editor.