NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne hot-fired an RS-25 engine in a test that marked another milestone toward the first crewed flight of the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) while laying groundwork for future production of the heavy-lift launch vehicle’s main propulsion system.
Additive manufacturing is a key element of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s plan to reduce the manufacturing costs of future versions of the RS-25 by 30 percent. The RS-25 engine is based on the Space Shuttle Main Engine that powered NASA’s space shuttles into orbit. Future versions will incorporate design simplifications and modern manufacturing processes such as additive manufacturing for affordability and sustainability.
The RS-25 program has 16 engines left in its inventory from the space shuttle program that are currently being repurposed for SLS, which will make its debut in 2019 carrying an uncrewed version of NASA’s Orion spacecraft.
The new controller – essentially the brain of the engine – weighs less and has far more processing power than previous versions, making the engine more responsive to vehicle commands.