Gas Generator Tests Completed on NASA J-2X Engine

A white-hot flame surrounded by red hot exhaust shoots from a recent test of the J-2X engine 'workhorse' gas generator at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. The workhorse gas generator simulates the flow path inside the actual J-2X gas generator that powers the engine's turbo machinery. Credit: NASA


Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed the latest round of tests on the workhorse gas generator for NASA’s J-2X rocket engine. With the first NASA J-2X engine far along in development, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is on track to begin testing in 2011 at Stennis Space Center. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.

“The tests verified that hardware changes made to the gas generator were effective in maintaining engine stability,” said John Vilja, J-2X vice president and program manager, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. “This is an exciting time, as we are one step closer to the first hot-fire test on the first new, operational engine developed for NASA since the Space Shuttle Main Engine.”

The gas generator produces hot gas which powers the engine’s turbo-machinery. It is based on the successful design used on the RS-68 engine system, which is used to power heavy-lift launch vehicles. The recent tests demonstrated that hardware changes and temperature uniformity of the hot gas produced by the generator met customer requirements before the first hot-fire tests.

NASA’s J-2X engine will be versatile to the varying needs of space exploration. It was developed with heavy-lift capabilities in mind, and could play an important role as a powerful upper-stage engine for future missions to low earth orbit, Mars or an asteroid. Not only will it burn liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, but NASA’s J-2X has the capability of being a technology demonstrator, namely as a test-bed for a liquid oxygen-methane engine. The heart of the J-2X is proven heritage technology that propelled the Apollo-era Saturn V rockets into space, incorporating state-of-the-art improvements.