Menu

Results for category "Aerojet Rocketdyne"

5 Articles

Aerojet Rocketdyne conducts successful test of Orion LAS jettison motor

Aerojet Rocketdyne performed a 1.5-second static fire of the jettison motor for the Orion Launch Abort System. Photo Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne performed a 1.5-second static fire of the jettison motor for the Orion Launch Abort System. Photo Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

On Wednesday, Aug. 31, Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully conducted a full-duration test of the solid-fueled rocket motor designed to jettison the launch abort system and separate it from the Orion spacecraft.

This 1.5-second test took place at the company’s Rancho Cordova, California, facility. It was conducted on the third development motor. The test helped provide performance data for Aerojet Rocketdyne and Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin.Aerojet Rocketdyne performed a 1.5-second static fire of the jettison motor for the Orion Launch Abort System. Photo Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

“In today’s test, the jettison motor generated more than 45,000 pounds of thrust, which is roughly enough thrust to lift two school buses off the ground,” said Cheryl Rehm, Orion program manager at Aerojet Rocketdyne, in a release issued by the company. “Data from this test will be used to confirm our test objectives and ensure our readiness to begin manufacturing our qualification and production flight motors.”

Not to be confused with the abort motor that pulls the Orion crew vehicle from the launch vehicle, which would only be used in the event of an emergency, the jettison motor is a critical element of every flight.

In a nominal flight profile, the Launch Abort System (LAS) – along with the accompanying aerodynamic shell protecting Orion – will need to be detached from the spacecraft shortly after first stage separation, and it is the job of the jettison motor to accomplish this critical task. Read more in my piece for SpaceFlight Insider.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is critical to SLS’s success

Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 engine installed in a test stand at Stennis Space Center. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 engine installed in a test stand at Stennis Space Center. Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

When people think of NASA’s crewed vehicles, they may assume that everything is developed and built in-house. Though that may be true for some components, the fact is that a large portion of the hardware that goes into the agency’s vehicles comes from commercial providers, like Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, and its precursor companies, has been supplying hardware for America’s space program from its earliest days through the Space Shuttle program. That trend will continue when the Space Launch System (SLS) makes its maiden flight in the latter half of 2018.

Though their iconic and dependable RS-25 and RS-68 engines represent ‘best of breed’ in first stage propulsion, the company also supplies some of the most widely-used upper stage power plants in the US launch fleet. The reliable RL10 has been in production, in some capacity, since 1959 and is still flown on both the Atlas V and Delta IV vehicles. Indeed, it was also selected to be the engine on both of SLS’s second stages – the single-engined Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage (ICPS) and quad-engined Exploration Upper Stage (EUS).

However, this is not the extent of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s involvement with SLS. In keeping with the mantra of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” and the desire to use as much of the legacy hardware as was practical, the Orion Crew and Service Module (CSM) will utilize a repurposed Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engine from the Space Shuttle program: the AJ10-190.

Like the RL10 family of engines, the AJ10 has a pedigree stretching back nearly 60 years and served as the main propulsion unit on the Apollo CSM. As with the engine used during Apollo, the Orion CSM variant will perform orbital maneuver and return/deorbit burns. Additionally, it can be enlisted to help save craft and crew in a number of different abort scenarios, should the need arise.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is also working on other components important for crewed missions to Mars, including solar electric propulsion (SEP), deep space habitation, and systems supporting landing and ascent operations. The company’s efforts are deeply aligned with NASA’s Journey to Mars, which was echoed by Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake in a news release issued by the company.

“As a nation of explorers, we constantly look beyond the horizon, and Mars is the most logical place for humanity to expand our knowledge of the solar system,” Drake said.

NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne test SLS core engine

The orange glow of excited hydrogen atoms can be clearly seen at the opening of the nozzle on the RS-25 at the conclusion of the test. Photo credit: Curt Godwin

The orange glow of excited hydrogen atoms can be clearly seen at the opening of the nozzle on the RS-25 at the conclusion of the test. Click to enlarge. Photo credit: Curt Godwin

NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne recently tested an RS-25 engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in coastal Mississippi in an effort to learn more about how the engine may react to the conditions it may encounter on an actual SLS launch.

Engine 0528, a development engine, was active for 420 seconds and was throttled between 80 to 111 percent of original rated power level. Though it may seem unusual to classify levels over 100 percent, it makes more sense to do so than re-write a multitude of pre-existing documentation as refinements come along. With the original design being the 100 percent benchmark, all follow-up enhancements have been measured against that metric.

Initially, SLS is slated to have its four core RS-25 engines operate at up to 109 percent rated thrust, though future mission plans call for it to be boosted to 111 percent. This most recent test ran the engine at that higher level for nearly five seconds. When the engines were used on the Space Shuttle, they would operate at nominal levels of 104.5 percent of rated thrust, though they could peak at 109 percent in an abort scenario.

As with many tests of this type, NASA provided live coverage via their NASA TV outlet. It must be noted, though, that watching the test via broadcast pales in comparison to witnessing the raw power coming from the test stand in-person. Experiencing the test from 1,200 feet (366 meters) away, one can feel every thump and pop from the engine as it is put through its test regime. Read More →

NASA readies for another test of SLS’s core propulsion system

NASA conducts a static fire test of one of its RS-25 engines. Credit: NASA

NASA conducts a static fire test of one of its RS-25 engines. Credit: NASA

NASA is preparing to conduct a full-duration static test fire of one of its RS-25 engines on Thursday, August 18, four of which will comprise the propulsion system in the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket. Previously known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME), the uprated engine will initially provide up to 109% of its original design thrust in early iterations of SLS, with a goal of eventually being rated for 111%.

When the engines were used on the Space Shuttle, they were rated for nominal use at 104.5%, though could be throttled up to 109% in the event of an abort scenario. However, doing so ran the risk of significant degradation of engine components, perhaps to the point of making it not cost-effective to refurbish the engine. That’s not a concern with SLS, though, as the core stage will not be recovered after use.

In order to consistently run the engine at the higher performance levels, Aerojet Rocketdyne – the manufacturer of the SSME/RS-25 engine – needed to upgrade the engine controller. The now-mothballed J-2X engine, also manufactured by Aerojet Rocketdyne, provided the perfect platform from which to develop the engine control module for the RS-25. Numerous development test firings have validated the new controller, as well as other changes to the engine, and NASA now moves forward with running the flight engines through mission-like static fire tests in preparation for the maiden launch of SLS, scheduled for the latter half of 2018.

Infographic explains why testing the RS-25 is necessary. Credit: NASA

Infographic explains why testing the RS-25 is necessary. Credit: NASA

Aerojet Rocketdyne awarded contract for Dream Chaser’s power system

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been awarded the contract to build the power distribution system for Dream Chaser. Artist's rendering, credit: SNC

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been awarded the contract to build the power distribution system for Dream Chaser. Artist’s rendering, credit: SNC

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been selected to supply the electrical power distribution system for Sierra Nevada Corporation’s (SNC) Dream Chaser spacecraft. The company will be responsible for designing, developing, manufacturing, and testing the system, followed by integration into the reusable spacecraft’s power network.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne is honored to supply a critical power management system for a spacecraft that will deliver supplies to astronauts living and working onboard the space station,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake in a news release. “We have been instrumental in efficiently and effectively managing power on the station for decades. We look forward to building upon that experience with Sierra Nevada Corporation, and developing future power systems for use on commercial missions, as well as NASA exploration programs and in-space transportation.”

Read much more in my full write-up at SpaceFlight Insider.