NASA Test Fires New Rocket Engine For Commercial Space Vehicle

BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. -- NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi conducted a successful test firing Wednesday of the liquid-fuel AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Taurus II space launch vehicle. Orbital and its engine supplier, Aerojet, test-fired the engine on Stennis' E-1 test stand. The test directly supports NASA's partnerships to enable commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station.

The initial test, the first in a series of three firings, lasted 10
seconds and served as a short-duration readiness firing to verify
AJ26 engine start and shutdown sequences, E-1 test stand operations,
and ground-test engine controls.

The test was conducted by a joint operations team comprised of
Orbital, Aerojet and Stennis engineers, with Stennis employees
serving as test conductors. The joint operations team and other NASA
engineers will conduct an in-depth data review of all subsystems in
preparation for a 50-second hot-fire acceptance test scheduled
several weeks from now. A third hot-fire test at Stennis also is
planned to verify tuning of engine control valves.

"Congratulations to Orbital and Aerojet for successfully completing
another major milestone," said Doug Cooke, associate administrator
for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters
in Washington. "This brings us one step closer to realizing NASA's
goals for accessing low Earth orbit via commercial spacecraft."

The AJ26 engine is designed to power the Taurus II space vehicle on
flights to low Earth orbit. The NASA-Orbital partnership was formed
under the agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services joint
research and development project. The company is under contract with
NASA to provide eight cargo missions to the space station through 2015.

"With this first test, Stennis not only demonstrates its versatility
and status as the nation's premiere rocket engine test facility, it
also opens an exciting new chapter in the nation's space program,"
said Patrick Scheuermann, Stennis' center director. "We're proud to
be partnering with Orbital to enable the wave of the future --
commercial flights to space and eventual resupply of cargo to the
International Space Station."

In addition to the Orbital partnership, Stennis also conducts testing
on Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's RS-68 rocket engine. The AJ26 is the
first new engine in years to be tested at Stennis. Operators spent
more than two years modifying the E-1 test stand in preparation. Work
included construction of a 27-foot-deep flame deflector trench, major
structural modifications and new fluid and gas delivery systems.

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Source: NASA

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