Ensuring NASA's Space Launch System Has the Propulsion It Needs

  • All 16 RS-25 engines slated for the first four SLS missions have successfully demonstrated flight worthiness.
  • All flight controllers for NASA's first four SLS flights have successfully completed testing.
  • The new RS-25 engine controller, which regulates and monitors engine thrust levels, health and performance, has 20 times the processing capability of the shuttle-era controller.

With today’s successful 500-second hot-fire test of Engine 2062 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed acceptance testing of all 16 RS-25 engines and flight controllers needed to support the first four flights of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). The final flight controller was tested on Engine 2062, which is slated to fly on the second mission of SLS, the first crewed mission.

At the conclusion of the Space Shuttle program, 14 of 16 engines in the SLS inventory had previously flown; two new engines were built from spare components. Last year, Aerojet Rocketdyne hot-fired one of the two remaining engines (Engine 2063) that had never flown and, with today’s test of Engine 2062, all 16 engines have completed acceptance testing.

“Generating 512,000 pounds of thrust, the RS-25 engine is a modern marvel, making it the ideal engine to power the SLS,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and president. “We’ve made a major technological leap with modern, upgraded flight controllers; the new controller has 20 times the processing capability of the shuttle-era controller and weighs 50 pounds less.”

The flight controller is a key component of the RS-25 engine; it serves as the brain of the engine and enables communication between the rocket and the engine, relaying commands and transmitting performance data. Additionally, the controller regulates thrust and fuel mixture ratio while monitoring the engine's overall health and status.

All four of the RS-25 engines slated for Exploration Mission-1 are complete and ready for integration into the core stage, as is the RL10 engine used on the rocket’s upper stage. The four RS-25 engines for Exploration Mission-2 are scheduled to be complete in September of this year.

“The excitement is building for the debut flight of SLS,” added Drake. “With today’s test, we are ensuring NASA’s new SLS rocket has the propulsion it needs for future flights carrying humans and cargo to multiple deep space destinations.”

Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne
Date: Apr 5, 2019