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Cryogenics Testbeds Training Rocket U Students
Engineers check the buildup of the Neo test fixture.

Image above: Engineers and Rocket University project leads Kyle Dixon and Evelyn Orozco-Smith check the buildup of the Neo test fixture and an Injector 71 engine that uses super-cooled propellants at the Neo Liquid Propellant Testbed inside a facility near Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility. NASA/Frankie Martin
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Heritage propellant technology and hardware from NASA's Space Shuttle Program are helping a group of engineers at Kennedy Space Center develop engine design and system test requirements experience for the Project Neo Liquid Propellant Testbed of the Engineering Directorate's Rocket University (Rocket U).

At the testbed in the Flight Vehicle Support Building near the Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF), engineers Kyle Dixon and Evelyn Orozco-Smith recently checked the buildup of the Neo test fixture and an Injector 71 engine that uses super-cooled propellants, liquid oxygen and liquid methane. Dixon and Orozco-Smith are systems engineers and Neo project leads in the Rocket U.

They and about seven other cryogenics, avionics, electrical and ground processing engineers have been working on the design and assembly of the Neo testbed as part of Rocket U's training program. According to Dixon, Neo is in the design review process and systems engineering phase.

"We've been writing the systems engineering requirements and building on our expertise to design a test fixture," Dixon said. "The phase one goal is to fire an engine with about 3,000 pounds of thrust."

To build the test stand, Orozco-Smith said the team repurposed hardware from the Space Shuttle Program. These included tools, personal protective equipment, control panels from orbiter processing facilities and monitors. A control trailer is being retrofitted to accommodate Neo systems requirements.

Nondestructive evaluation of the engine has been completed, and the engine hot fire analysis is in work. Orozco-Smith said that two 1,000 liter Dewars, one for liquid oxygen and the other for liquid methane, have been received. Design of engine attachment components, plumbing, electrical systems and avionics software are under development.

Dixon said the first Systems Requirement Review was completed, and the next step is a Preliminary Design Review. Phase one testing of the engine will be accomplished at the SLF midfield on the concrete pad previously used for cameras recording the Shuttle landings.

"After we accomplish the goals of phase one, the next goal, or phase two, is to eventually integrate the engine to a flight vehicle," Dixon said.

For now, Dixon and Orozco-Smith look forward to their first engine hot fire in late January 2013, collaborating with other centers to hot fire other articles next spring and continuing to expand the team's horizons.

Linda Herridge
NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center