New testing on SLS Rocket Engine

Warehouse storage of SLS rocket engine
In late 2019, NASA attaches the first of four RS-25 engines to the core stage for Artemis at the NASA Michoud Assembly Facility. Photo by NASA/Jude Guidry

Aerojet Rocketdyne and NASA are gearing up for a new phase of hot-fire testing on the RS-25 engine, which will power the core stage of the Space Launch System super heavy-lift exploration rocket.

The Retrofit-2 test series will consist of seven tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, beginning today and running through June. Each hot-fire test will last up to 500 seconds on the A1 Test Stand.

“This new hardware will significantly reduce the cost of the RS-25 rocket engine by leveraging important advances in design, materials and manufacturing technology,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne president and CEO.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is under contract to build 24 new engines. This new configuration of components will result in a 30% cost reduction in the engine from the version that flew on the Space Shuttle.

This test series will put a second Hot Isostatic Pressing-bonded main combustion chamber through a comprehensive series of tests. The company chose the HIP-bonded design because it eliminates difficult and time-consuming plating processes, reduces welding defects and costly rework. Development and certification models of the HIP-bonded combustion chamber have been completed and six production units are being assembled at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

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In addition, the Retrofit-2 series will test the Pogo hardware, which had already been tested, verifying its durability. The additively manufactured Pogo design eliminates more than 20 parts, more than 100 welds and reduces fabrication time by more than 50%.

The Retrofit-2 series will also test the high-pressure fuel and oxidizer turbopumps build from simplified designs using modern techniques, as well as 3D printed valves and redesigned actuators.

Aerojet Rocketdyne has a significant presence in Huntsville with the Advanced Manufacturing Facility conducting advanced rocket propulsion research and development.

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