Thursday, August 19, 2021

Virgin Orbit wraps up SSC tests

Virgin Orbit SSC test     NASA photo
STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. - Virgin Orbit, a California-based satellite-launch company, wrapped up a series of tests on the E-1 Test Stand, Cell 1, at Stennis Space Center (SSC), Miss., last month. The stand was configured for the tests in the beginning of this year, and the hot fire series began March 30. The final testing day was July 20. Virgin Orbit’s test campaign had team members focused on the 75,000-pound force Thrust Chamber Assembly (TCA), which consists of an injector, combustion chamber, and nozzle. The TCA is not an entire engine. Instead, it is where the propellants are mixed, combusted, and exhausted. The objective is to test different propellant injector configurations to determine which configuration will maximize performance and efficiency. Most of the main engine can be simulated with the test stand itself. The Space Act Agreement lets NASA enter a partnership with organization like Virgin Orbit, which reimburses SSC for any testing costs. Originally there were 30 tests scheduled involving 10 different injector configurations at a minimum of three tests each. But the project was later expanded to 14 injector configurations and many more tests. The testing directly contributed to the design changes appearing on the first-stage Newton 3 engine. Virgin Orbit uses Newton 3 to propel the LauncherOne rocket, a two-stage, orbital, air-launched vehicle carried to the upper atmosphere and released over the Pacific Ocean. This rocket holds the title of the first orbital class, air-launched, liquid-fueled rocket to successfully reach space. (Source: Stennis Space Center, 08/18/21)