Aerojet announced May 4 that its AJ26 engine successfully completed a hot-fire test yesterday at NASA’s Stennis Space Center.
Aerojet is a GenCorp company.
Orbital Sciences Corporation, Aerojet and NASA monitored the full-duration test in support of the Antares(R) rocket program. This is the eighth AJ26 engine to be tested at Stennis.
“This test demonstrates our 70-year legacy of propulsion performance,” said Executive Director of Space and Launch Systems, Pete Cova. “This is what we come to work for every day.”
Following review of the test data, the AJ26 will be shipped to Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for integration with Orbital’s Antares rocket.
Aerojet’s AJ26 engine is an oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion LO2/Kerosene engine that achieves very high performance in a lightweight compact package. Based on the NK-33 engine originally designed and produced in Russia for the Russian N1 lunar launch vehicle, the liquid-fuel AJ26 will provide boost for the first stage of the Antares rocket.
Aerojet originally purchased approximately 40 NK-33 engines in the mid-1990s and, under contract with Orbital, the company has modified the engines specifically for its Antares rocket. Throughout the years, more than 200 NK-33 engines were built and 575 engine tests conducted, totaling more than 100,000 seconds of test time. Aerojet has been developing design modifications to the NK-33 since that time to ensure that the AJ26 is suitable for commercial launchers.
In addition to the AJ26 certification testing, each AJ26 engine to be used on Antares rocket will come through the Stennis facility for pre-launch acceptance testing prior to being integrated with the rocket.
The Antares rocket vehicle is being developed to boost payloads into a variety of low-Earth and geosynchronous transfer orbits and to Earth escape trajectories. Antares incorporates proven technologies from Orbital’s Pegasus(R), Taurus(R) and Minotaur rockets, and is supported by a “best-in-class” network of suppliers from the U.S. and around the world. The Antares rocket will also be available to civil government and U.S. military customers for dedicated launch services for medium-class scientific and national security satellites.