Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, announced today that its dual AJ26 main engine system successfully powered the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation's (NYSE:ORB) Antares rocket as the vehicle was launched on its maiden flight from NASA Wallops Flight Facility.
The two Aerojet AJ26 engines, which form the Antares rocket's first-stage main engine system, burned for 233 seconds and provided 816,000 lbs of vacuum thrust as it powered Antares from the launch pad to a velocity of 9,800 miles per hour and a target orbit of 250 km x 300 km.
The launch was a test flight of the Antares launch system conducted under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) development agreement with Orbital. COTS helps American industry develop privately-operated space transportation systems.
"Today's test is the culmination of some of the most challenging and rewarding work we've had the privilege to support," said Aerojet Vice President, Space & Launch Systems, Julie Van Kleeck.
The AJ26 is a commercial derivative of the NK-33 engine that was first developed for the Russian N-1 rocket by the Joint Stock Company Kuznetsov. The oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion, oxygen kerosene engine achieves very high performance in a lightweight, compact package.
"The two AJ26 engines that launched today's flight were originally slated to power the N-1 rocket on a lunar mission in the early 1970s," said Aerojet Executive Director, Pete Cova. "Today's mission marks the first time these engines are reaching space, which is a significant milestone for both the U.S. and Russian companies involved."
To modernize the NK-33 for commercial applications, Aerojet enhancements include a gimbal block for thrust vectoring capability, new wiring harnesses and electrical circuitry, electromechanical valve actuators and instrumentation.
Date: Apr 22, 2013