For engineers working on the J-2X engine program, installation of the upgraded J-2X powerpack on the A-1 Test Stand on Dec. 5 had to feel like a long-awaited holiday gift.
The powerpack consists of a gas generator and turbopumps and is a critical component for the new engine. It is responsible for pumping liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen into the engine's main combustion chamber to produce the needed thrust capability. Arrival and installation of the next-generation engine component marked the culmination of more than two years of extensive modification work to prepare the A-1 stand for the critical test series. The major work effort began after NASA engineers completed an initial series of tests on a heritage J-2 engine powerpack in mid-2008.
Data from that test series was used to upgrade the powerpack that will be used on the J-2X rocket engine being developed to carry humans deeper into space than ever before. The J-2X is being designed to provide 294,000 pounds of thrust, an increase from the 230,000-pound capability of the original J-2 engine used in the Apollo Program.
Testing of the upgraded J-2X powerpack is scheduled to begin in January 2012 at NASA's Stennis Space Center, in south Mississippi. The J-2X engine is being developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It will provide upper-stage power for NASA's new Space Launch System. The SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, its crew, cargo, equipment and science experiments to space - providing a safe, affordable and sustainable means of reaching the moon, asteroids and other destinations in the solar system.
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