NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center will provide propulsion system acceptance testing for the Taurus II space launch vehicle, which Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., is developing. The first Taurus II mission will be flown in support of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services cargo demonstration to the International Space Station. The demonstration currently is planned for the end of 2010 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.
Orbital's Taurus II design uses a pair of Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines to provide first stage propulsion for the new launch vehicle. Orbital anticipates the first engine will be delivered to Stennis in mid-2009.
"We have been tasked to design and modify one of our most versatile test facilities and have it checked out and ready for testing in 11 months," said Robert Bruce, Stennis' AJ26 test project manager. "While this is an aggressive schedule, we are confident in our ability to support Orbital's development effort. We are excited to be selected by Orbital and are now fully integrated into their launch vehicle development team."
Stennis engineers will have less than one year both to design and make modifications to the E-1 Test Stand to accommodate testing of the engine. The engine uses RP-1 hydrocarbon fuel, basically refined rocket-grade kerosene, as rocket propellant. This type of rocket fuel has not been used at Stennis to test a rocket engine this powerful since the late 1960s.
"When Stennis Space Center develops this capability, it will make Stennis' test expertise available to a whole new line of rocket engine developers in both the commercial and government space launch arena," Bruce said. "We are renewing a capability that the center had when it first opened, giving Stennis the ability to test hydrocarbon fuel for the first time at the E-1 Test Stand. This fuel was used in the 1960s, when Stennis conducted tests for the Saturn V rocket. We have only tested with RP-1 in two much smaller tests since that time."
Testing the engine will require two phases of work. The initial phase will ensure the facility is meeting its designed requirements. Engineers then will test the engine to determine whether it meets the contractor's requirements. This second phase, the acceptance test, will take place in late summer 2009.
For more information about Stennis Space Center, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/stennis/home/index.html.
For a high-resolution image of the Taurus II rocket to accompany this article, visit: http://www.orbital.com/AdvancedSpace/AdvancedLaunchSystems/TaurusII/index.shtml.
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