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NASA Testing of Commercial Engine Flies High
01.28.11
 
Stennis Space Center employees monitor the lifting of the first Aerojet AJ26 flight engine at the E-1 Test Stand onsite. Credit: NASA Stennis Space Center employees monitor the lifting of the first Aerojet AJ26 flight engine at the E-1 Test Stand onsite.
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You see a lot of smiles around the E-1 Test Stand at John C. Stennis Space Center these days. Engineers involved in testing Aerojet's AJ26 rocket engine for Orbital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II space launch vehicle have good reason to smile.

In fact, they have several good reasons given that the partnership between NASA, Orbital and Aerojet is off to such an impressive start. Two successful tests of an AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital's Taurus II rocket recently wrapped up at Stennis. The two tests were so successful that Orbital engineers decided a planned third test was unnecessary. The AJ26 engine used in the testing was removed from the E-1 stand on Jan. 24, and will be returned to Aerojet in Sacramento, Calif. to be refurbished and used on an upcoming Taurus II mission.

The same day the engine was removed, the first flight engine was installed to begin regularly planned "acceptance testing" at Stennis. The AJ26 flight unit will be tested in February, and then delivered to Orbital at the Wallops Flight Facility launch site in Virginia for integration with the rocket's first stage core.

Orbital's Taurus II rocket will first be used to carry out commercial cargo supply mission to the International Space Station. Orbital is developing the cargo logistics system under the joint Commercial Orbital Transportation Services research and development project with NASA, and is scheduled to carry out the first of eight cargo missions under the Commercial Resupply Services contract beginning in early 2012.