Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-22 rocket engine fires during a test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. (NASA / DARPA Photo)
A rocket engine built from spare space shuttle parts — and the team behind the engine — passed a grueling 10-day, 10-firing test that sets the stage for Boeing’s Phantom Express military space plane.
“We scored a perfect 10 last week,” Jeff Haynes, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s program manager for the AR-22 engine, told reporters today during a teleconference.
The hydrogen-fueled AR-22 is largely based on the RS-25 engine that was used on the space shuttle and will be used on NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System. “We’ve upgraded the ‘brain’ for this derivative mission,” using an advanced controller, Haynes said.
Aerojet, Boeing and the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, set up the 240-hour test between June 26 and July 6 to see whether the AR-22 could be turned around rapidly enough for a 100-second, full-throttle firing every day. The bottom line? It can.
“We had 68 minutes to spare when we finished the last test,” Haynes said.
Along the way, the team had to deal with two direct lightning strikes that damaged the test facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. Engineers also had …read more