Aerojet Signs Deal to Expand Production of Rocket Engine Used in Orbital’s Taurus II Booster

Artist's conception of Obital Sciences Corporation's Taurus II rocket set for launch at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia.


Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, and its Russian partner United Engine Corporation (UEC), announced today the signing of a cooperation agreement regarding their next steps in the companies’ cooperative efforts to provide NK-33 and AJ26 rocket engines to the commercial launch market.

The cooperative efforts of Aerojet and UEC will include marketing, sales, technical support, testing and a range of activities for the eventual re-start of engine production – all designed to provide commercial customers with high-performing, cost-competitive NK-33 and AJ26 hydrocarbon engines. This agreement builds on more than 15 years of cooperation between Aerojet and JSC “N.D. Kuznetzov” (NDK), which is managed by UEC, to provide launch propulsion for the growing global commercial space market.

Under the agreement, UEC will be responsible for marketing and sale of the modern NK-33 in the Russian Federation; checkout, testing and delivery of additional NK-33 rocket engines to Aerojet for modification into the AJ26; and eventual re-start of NK-33 production in Russia. UEC will also provide support of the NK-33 on vehicles launched from the Russian Federation.

Aerojet, with an exclusive license for NK-33 and AJ26 in the U.S., is responsible for U.S. marketing and sale of the engines; modifying the NK-33 into the AJ26; and support of these engines on vehicles launched from the U.S. Aerojet will continue to evaluate U.S. production of the AJ26, based on market demand.

Aerojet currently provides the AJ26 rocket engine for the first-stage of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II launcher. UEC provides the NK-33 to Russian Federation customers. Both Aerojet and UEC are offering AJ26 and modern NK-33 engines to additional customers in the United States and Russia, respectively.

Aerojet, UEC and NDK recently completed a series of NK-33 rocket engine tests in Samara, Russia in support of Orbital’s Taurus II launch vehicle development. This testing is built on the extensive engine database that includes more than 17 years of development testing as well as approximately 1,500 engine-level tests totaling 194,000 seconds of firing duration. The recent ‘hot-fire’ extended-time testing verified that the AJ26 has the significant engine performance margins and durability required for today’s commercial launch vehicles.

About the NK-33 and AJ26 Rocket Engines

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 unexcelled high performance in a lightweight, compact package. Aerojet’s AJ26 incorporates design and modifications that make the NK-33 engine suitable for today’s and future commercial launcher vehicles. Aerojet and NDK have worked together to provide the AJ26 to the U.S. commercial space market since the mid-1990s.