New Engine Could Be Used As The Crew Exploration Vehicle’s Future Propulsion System
( Minneapolis, May 8, 2006 ) – Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) has received a $10.4M technology development contract to reduce the risk to develop a non-toxic Liquid Oxygen (LOx)-Liquid Methane rocket engine that could be used on future Crew Exploration Vehicles (CEV). This contract is part of NASA’s overall goal to limit costs associated with human space exploration.
NASA’s Exploration System Architecture Studies have identified a non-toxic LOx-Methane propulsion system as a preferred candidate for future CEV architecture because it eliminates the need for special ground handling procedures associated with traditional nitrogen tetroxide and monomethyl hydrazine propulsion systems. Non-toxic engines may significantly reduce the cost of fueling and servicing operations.
The CEV will transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station and, eventually, carry astronauts to the moon and back. If successfully demonstrated, the LOx-methane propulsion system could be used for both the CEV Service Module main engine and on the ascent stage for the lunar lander.
Under terms of the contract, ATK will design, develop, fabricate, test, and evaluate a 7500-lbf constant-thrust, pressure-fed bipropellant rocket engine assembly using Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Methane. The first phase of the development is to design and test a heavy-weight, prototype rocket motor. Upon completion, the contract allows for options to design and fabricate a more flight-weight prototype engine. Production variants of this main engine will have multiple restart capabilities to support lunar exploration as well as additional exploration to Mars. This contract is designed to develop new technologies that raise the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) and determine the feasibility of producing a main engine.
XCOR, a Mojave California-based rocket engine development firm, will provide engineering design and testing support to NASA and ATK throughout the development process.
This contract is implemented by Marshall Space Flight Center under the Propulsion and Cryogenic Advanced Development Project managed by Glenn Research Center as part of the Exploration Technology Development Program.