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The USAF’s Peacekeeper Lives Up To Its Name

Test engine in configuration at test stand.

NASA has been working on a lunar rover that would hunt for subsurface volatiles and then extract them for processing. This is the basis of the proposed Resource Prospector Mission (RPM) found in the Regolith and Environment Science and Oxygen and Lunar Volatile Extraction (RESOLVE) payload, and the technology development initiative predates its official start two years ago in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate’s Advanced Exploration Systems Division. However, the mission is to advance the development of exploration systems to reduce risk, lower lifecycle cost, and validate operational concepts for future human missions beyond Earth orbit.

Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) has tasked Johnson Space Center-White Sands Test Facility to support testing that will demonstrate the Peacekeeper Stage (RS34) Attitude Control Engine (ACE) hardware for NASA applications. Of particular interest is its use for upcoming missions. The Engineering Directorate and the Flight Projects Office identified this activity as a high value, high payoff activity in the pursuit of repurposing the RS34 bus for use in NASA missions.

White Sands Test Facility’s Propulsion Test Office employees are working hard to repurpose the ACE into a workhorse for NASA’s new Resource Prospector (RP) Program and, in keeping with the lower lifecycle costs, gleaning the necessary components from the Peacekeeper to use during testing.

“We have been building up our test system at our facility to connect to the ACE test article,” said Steven Torres, test stand conductor at Test Sand 401. “We will be using monomethylhydrazine with oxidizer to fire our engine,” he said.

“The various tests will collect the mixture ratio and the thermal data throughout a wider range of test profiles,” Torres said, “and the test stand will be in vacuum mode during the tests.” Placing the test article in vacuum simulates the atmosphere of space.

In addition to the positive atmosphere in repurposing of the Peacekeepers engines and fuels, the tests “will provide useful information about the engine,” said Shawn Lonasee, Project Leader on the program. “Our team ensures the success of the mission.” Torres agreed, “White Sands Test Facility is a key part of this program being successful.”