Aerojet Rocketdyne awarded largest RL10 engine contract from ULA

The company will deliver 116 engines to be used with ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket

An RL 10C-X engine undergoes a hot-fire test in 2019.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has received its largest RL 10 engine contract ever from United Launch Alliance for 116 engines. The RL 10C-X engines will power ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, supporting ULA’s work to fulfill its recent contract from Amazon.

In April, Amazon announced an agreement with ULA, Arianespace and Blue Origin to launch thousands of its internet satellites — part of its Kuiper satellite constellation. Decatur-based ULA will use its Vulcan Centaur rocket to take the satellites into orbit. The multibillion-dollar deal represents the largest commercial procurement of launch vehicles in history. ULA will receive 38 of the 83 missions for Amazon. This is in addition to a previous order from Amazon to ULA for nine launches of its Kuiper satellites on ULA’s Atlas V rocket.

The components of the ULA Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL 10C-X uses a 3D-printed main injector and main combustion chamber, as well as a 94-inch monolithic lightweight composite nozzle. The specific impulse, or Isp, of the RL 10C-X is 461 seconds, putting it at the very near top of the RL 10 engine family in terms of performance. The Isp measures the amount of thrust the engine generates per unit of propellent per second.

“The RL 10 is the highest performance upper-stage rocket engine flying today,” said Tory Bruno, president and CEO of ULA.

Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake added, “With the RL 10C-X, we’ve leveraged our industry-leading 3D-printing technology to significantly reduce the cost of the engine while at the same time increasing its performance to provide our customer with enhanced mission capability.”

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Aerojet Rocketdyne has headquarters and manufacturing facilities in Huntsville, but the RL 10C-X will be fabricated and assembled in its West Palm Beach, Florida, location.   

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