Friday, April 13, 2012

NASA, AF to study joint engine

NASA and the Air Force will study next-generation upper stage propulsion, formalizing their interest in a new upper stage engine to replace the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne RL-10. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., hopes to find a less expensive RL-10-class engine for a third stage of the Space Launch System. Two engines have already been pegged for the SLS: the Space Shuttle Main Engines will power the first stage and the Rocketdyne J-2X will power the second stage. The Air Force Space and Missile System Center's Launch Systems Directorate in Los Angeles hopes to replace the RL-10 engines used on the upper stage of the Atlas V and Delta IV used to launch satellites. Partnering will help reduce costs and strengthen the nation's rocket propulsion industrial base, NASA said. "In recent years, it's become apparent that the rocket propulsion industry is in a state of distress,” said Dale Thomas, Associated Director for Technical Issues at Marshall. “Collaborating, especially in a time of declining budgets, helps to grow and strengthen the knowledge base which is important for our nation's technical pre-eminence." (Source: NASA/Marshall, Flightglobal, AvioNews, 04/12/12) Gulf Coast note: Michoud Assembly Facility, New Orleans, is building portions of the SLS, including the Orion crew vehicle; Stennis Space Center, Miss., tests NASA and commercial rocket engine systems, including the J-2X and SSME.