Aerojet Completes Engine Test Firings for OSC’s Taurus II Rocket


Aerojet, a GenCorp company, and Orbital Sciences Corporation, along with Aerojet’s Russian partner, SNTK, announced today that a series of NK-33 rocket engine tests conducted in Samara, Russia were successfully completed in support of the development of Orbital’s Taurus® II space launch vehicle.

The purpose of the extended-time testing of the NK-33 engine, on which the AJ26 first-stage engine for the Taurus II rocket is based, was to demonstrate a ‘hot-fire’ duration equal to two times a normal Taurus II acceptance testing and launch profile duty cycle. Over the last two weeks, three tests were conducted by SNTK with a cumulative duration of more than 600 seconds. These tests verified the significant technical margins on engine performance and durability required by Orbital’s Taurus II development program.

GenCorp President and CEO and Aerojet President, Scott Seymour, said, “Completing the margin testing is a significant milestone in Aerojet’s contract with Orbital. This success demonstrates the engine’s robust design and its ability to operate at the power levels and duration times compatible with the Taurus II flight profile with additional performance margin.”

“The success of the NK-33 engine tests in Russia is an important step forward in the development of the Taurus II rocket,” said Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group. “With the performance of the heritage engine now confirmed and well understood, we can move forward with confidence to configuration verification and acceptance testing of AJ26 engines at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi beginning in April.”

Aerojet is the provider of the AJ26/NK-33 rocket engine for the first stage of the Taurus II launcher. The basic NK-33 engine was originally designed and produced in Russia for the Russian N1 lunar launch vehicle. Aerojet subsequently purchased approximately 40 of the basic NK-33 engines in the mid-1990s and, under contract with Orbital, the company is currently modifying the engines specifically for the Taurus II launch vehicle.

Aerojet and Orbital are scheduled to begin ground testing of the AJ26 engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi in less than two months. The U.S.-based testing will validate the Taurus II specific engine configuration and continue to build on the extensive engine database that includes more than 17 years of development testing, encompassing approximately 1,500 engine-level tests totaling 194,000 seconds of firing duration. After the design verification tests are completed at Stennis, regular production acceptance testing will be initiated, paving the way to the first flights of the Taurus II rocket in 2011.

About the AJ26 Rocket Engine

The AJ26 is a commercial derivative of the NK-33 engine that was first developed for the Russian rocket that would have taken cosmonauts to the moon. As the world’s first oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion, oxygen/kerosene rocket engine, it achieves very high performance in a lightweight, compact package. Aerojet has been developing design modifications to make the engine suitable for commercial launchers since the mid-1990s.

About the Taurus II Launch Vehicle

Orbital is developing the Taurus II medium-class space launch vehicle to boost payloads into a variety of low Earth and geosynchronous transfer orbits and to Earth escape trajectories. Taurus II incorporates proven technologies from the company’s Pegasus®, Taurus and Minotaur rockets, and is supported by a “best-in-class” network of suppliers from the U.S. and around the world.

The Taurus II program currently has a backlog of nine launches, beginning with the demonstration flight in 2011 for the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) project, a joint research and development effort with NASA to develop a system capable of safely and reliably supplying the International Space Station (ISS) with essential cargo. Orbital is also under contract with NASA for the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program with an eight-mission, $1.9 billion agreement to deliver cargo to the ISS from 2011 through 2015.

In addition to its work with NASA on the COTS and CRS programs, Orbital is also offering the Taurus II rocket to U.S. civil government and military customers for dedicated launch services for medium-class scientific and national security satellites. From its Wallops Island, Virginia launch site, Taurus II will be capable of supporting mid-inclination and polar orbiting spacecraft weighing approximately 10,500 lbs. and 5,500 lbs., respectively.

  • Robert

    why don’t you build something that will take us to the Moon, Mars, and beyond…Just the wealth of minerals on one asteroid let alone the hidden treasures on the moon’s surface would more than pay for itself. All the hydro carbons on Titan could fuel inter planetary space travel for the next billion years. Forget LEO and focus on worlds beyond our own.. F

  • Robert

    I believe President Obama is short sighted and wrong in his decision to scrap the Constellation Space programme.What greater or nobler ambition could there be than to literally shoot for the stars or even planetary worlds and discover what lies beyond the confines of our small planet. The vast amount of wealth that is known to lie on these alien worlds would bring multifold returns on any investment. let alone the vast amount of knowledge that could be gleaned from such exploration. Not to mention the answer to one of the greatest questions.Is there life out there? To cancel out such future hope and promise for a nation seems myopic and backward.I’ll send the president $1000.00 personally in order to have a change of heart and I’m not even an American. If every American did the same they would have 250 billion dollars to play with and could even set up a three ring circus on the moon if they wanted.