The Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68A engine completed its final hot-fire acceptance test Monday at Stennis Space Center. Three of the rockets are used to power United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rockets into space.
The Delta IV Heavy project has four launches remaining.
“The throttleable RS-68A engine has been the centerpiece of the Delta IV Heavy rocket for more than 15 years,” said Eileen P. Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “We are very proud of the 65 engines flown to date and their flawless performance record.”
Conceived using a simplified design approach to lower cost while maintaining its overall reliability, the original variant of the engine, the RS-68, was first tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California; testing later moved to Stennis in 2000. The RS-68 powered Delta IV made its inaugural flight in 2002.
“We’ve continued to improve the RS-68 engine, which today remains the most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine in the world,” said Jim Maser, Aerojet Rocketdyne senior vice president of Space. “This engine was developed entirely with company funds to be a very cost competitive and extremely reliable booster engine.”
The upgraded RS-68A, which generates 705,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, completed its first test firing in September 2008, was certified in April 2011 and made its inaugural flight in June 2012.
Now the company, which is in the process of being acquired by Lockheed Martin, is focused on the RS-25 engine, which will power the core stage of the Space Launch System.
Aerojet Rocketdyne has an advanced manufacturing facility in Huntsville and also performs advance rocket propulsion research and development there.