NASA Tests Liquid Hydrogen/Oxygen Engine For Upcoming Heavy Rocket


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NASA on Thursday tested the powerpack assembly for the J-2X engine, an important component of NASA's next-generation heavy-lift rocket.

The J-2X powerpack assembly was test-fired at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The engine will power the upper stage of NASA's proposed Space Launch System (SLS), a 143-ton rocket that will eventually carry human crews into deep space on the Orion spacecraft. According to NASA, it is the first human-rated liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen engine developed in the U.S. in decades.

"The determination and focus by teams at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Stennis on designing and perfecting the J-2X engine helps show the great strides of progress made on the overall program," said Todd May, SLS Program Manager. "We are inspired to stay the course and pursue our goal of exploring deep space and traveling farther than ever before."

The powerpack of the engine has performed 13 tests and burned millions of pounds of propellants this year. It was tested separately from the engine for thoroughness, and under a wider range of conditions. NASA stated that the tests have provided "a trove" of data about the performance of the device's turbopump and flexible ducts.

"These tests at Stennis are similar to doctor-ordered treadmill tests for a person's heart," said Tom Byrd, J-2X engine lead in the SLS Liquid Engines Office at Marshall in Huntsville, Ala. "The engineers who designed and analyze the turbopumps inside the powerpack are like our doctors, using sensors installed in the assembly to monitor the run over a wide range of stressful conditions. We ran the assembly tests this year for far longer than the engine will run during a mission to space, and acquired a lot of valuable information that will help us improve the development of the J-2X engine."

NASA engineers will soon remove the powerpack assembly from its test stand and begin tests of the fully integrated engine. The preparations will need to be complete by 2014, when the uncrewed Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) will be launching an Orion capsule flight test.

(Image courtesy NASA/SSC)