There’s a New Solid Rocket Engine in Town, All Bow to the Kratos Zeus

Kratos Zeus 1 first static test fire 13 photos
Photo: Kratos
If you're a videogame player, then the association between the names Kratos and Zeus will immediately have you thinking about the God of War title for PlayStation platforms. For people working in the American defense industry, the two names together will from now designate a potent new solid rocket motor.
Kratos is a name we’ve discussed before here on autoevolution, most often in relation to a an uncrewed aircraft system called Valkyrie. The tech is currently gaining extra attention thanks to an announcement saying it will include the Shield AI artificial intelligence pilot, but it’s not the Valkyrie we’re here to discuss now.

The target of our focus here is Zeus 1, a solid rocket motor (SRM) developed for Kratos by Aerojet Rocketdyne, a name we know from space exploration as the one behind the Space Shuttle engines, but also those that power the Artemis Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.

Zeus is a brand new design of “affordable commercial SRMs.” It is in essence a 32.5-inch diameter rocket engine that will be used to power Kratos-made launch stages for hypersonic vehicles.

The exact specs of the engine are not known, but we do get word of the Zeus being significantly better than legacy and heritage SRMs, while still allowing the same payload design and use of existing infrastructure.

Unlike existing rocket engines, though, it will also allow the integration of newer tech and payloads. They will be flown “more often, faster and farther,” and will be cheaper than what current solutions offer.

Kratos said this week that the Zeus 1 underwent its first static test fire at the Aerojet Rocketdyne facility in Arkansas, and it performed flawlessly. We are not given exact numbers to back that statement up, but the company ensures the world that “preliminary hardware and data inspection confirms the robustness of the motor design and its applicability for multiple customer applications.”

It's not clear at this time when the Zeus 1 will be ready for duty, but we do know it will be followed by another version called Zeus 2, which should be test-fired later this year.

The Zeus rocket engines are part of Kratos’ push to become “one of the only companies with both the Rocket System and “Flyer” systems under one entity.” The list of hardware being researched for this goal also includes the Erinyes hypersonic test vehicle, announced in 2021 and expected to debut next year, and the Dark Fury, a hypersonic system whose “nature and performance characteristics are highly confidential.”

We’ll keep an eye out for what Kratos is up to in this field, and update any time we learn anything meaningful. After all, it’s not everyday we witness the advent of potentially world-changing tech.
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Editor's note: Gallery shows various images of the Kratos Valkyrie system.

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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