Billion Dollar J-2X Engine to be Mothballed

A J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. (Credit: NASA/SSC)
A J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. (Credit: NASA/SSC)

Aviation Week reports that the new upper stage J-2X engine will be mothballed next year after engineers complete its development and not put into use until NASA is ready to send humans to Mars, which probably won’t be until the late 2020’s at the earliest.

The engine, which NASA has spent $1.2 billion developing since 2007, is overpowered for the precursor human mission to asteroids and the moon the agency is likely to do in the interim.

An upgrade of the Saturn V upper-stage engine, the all-cryogenic J-2X generates 294,000 lb. of thrust with its gas-generator cycle. While it almost certainly will be needed to send men and women to Mars, the equally venerable RL-10 is beginning to look like a better power plant for the SLS upper stages that will be needed before that far-off mission.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne Completes First in Series of Full Motion J-2X Tests

A J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. (Credit: NASA/SSC)
A J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. (Credit: NASA/SSC)

SACRAMENTO, Calif., June 21, 2013 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — The leading rocket engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (GY) company, announced today that it successfully completed the first in a series of full motion hot-fire tests on the J-2X engine at John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. NASA has selected the J-2X as the upper-stage propulsion for the evolved 143-ton (130-metric ton) Space Launch System (SLS), an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle.

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Hot-fire Tests Steering the Future of NASA’s Space Launch System Engines

A J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. (Credit: NASA/SSC)
A J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. (Credit: NASA/SSC)

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, MS (NASA PR) — Engineers developing NASA’s next-generation rocket closed one chapter of testing with the completion of a J-2X engine test series on the A-2 test stand at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and will begin a new chapter of full motion testing on test stand A-1.

The J-2X will drive the second stage of the 143-ton (130-metric ton) heavy-lift version of the Space Launch System (SLS). The rocket will provide an entirely new capability for human exploration and send humans in NASA’s Orion spacecraft into deep space.

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3-D Printing Makes Its Mark in NASA’s New Engine

A pogo z-baffle for an RS-25 engine, built using state-of-the-art Selective Laser Melting, is inspected with a structured light scan. The part was created at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which also manages the agency's Space Launch System, or SLS, which will use RS-25s to reach beyond low-Earth orbit. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)
A pogo z-baffle for an RS-25 engine, built using state-of-the-art Selective Laser Melting, is inspected with a structured light scan. The part was created at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., which also manages the agency’s Space Launch System, or SLS, which will use RS-25s to reach beyond low-Earth orbit. (Credit: NASA/MSFC)

By Bill Hubscher
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

The latest in cutting-edge manufacturing is already making a significant impact in the future of space exploration.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., the prime contractor for the J-2X engine, recently used an advanced 3-D printing process called Selective Laser Melting, or SLM, to create an exhaust port cover for the engine. SLM uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the cover, which is essentially a maintenance hatch for the engine’s turbo pumps.

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Pratt & Whitney Reaches J-2X Milestone

CANOGA PARK, Calif. (PW&R PR) — Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed the last hot-fire test on the J-2X powerpack — an important step toward development of America’s next rocket engine designed for human spaceflight.  NASA has selected the J-2X as the upper-stage propulsion for the Space Launch System (SLS), an advanced heavy-lift launch vehicle.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company.

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Boeing Gets $175 Million to Adapt Delta IV Stage for Space Launch System


Despite NASA paying Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne $1.2 billion to develop the J-2X upper stage for the new Space Launch System, the space agency will use modified Delta IV stages on the first two flights of the new heavy-lift booster.

The price tag? A cool $175 million. The beneficiary? Boeing. And, curiously enough, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.

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J-2X Engine Goes the Distance in Latest Test Firing

NASA PR — NASA engineers conducted a 550-second test of the new J-2X rocket engine at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on July 13. The J-2X engine will power the upper-stage of a planned two-stage Space Launch System, or SLS. The SLS will launch NASA’s Orion spacecraft and other payloads, and provide an entirely new capability for human exploration beyond low Earth orbit. Designed to be safe, affordable and flexible for crew and cargo missions, the SLS will continue America’s journey of discovery and exploration to destinations including nearby asteroids, Lagrange points, the moon and ultimately, Mars.

The test, conducted on the A-2 Test Stand, continued a series of firings to gather critical data for engine development. This was the first flight-duration test of the engine’s nozzle extension, a bell shaped device to increase engine performance.

Operators collected data about the nozzle extension’s performance in conditions that simulated heights up to 50,000 feet. Additionally, operators introduced different propellant pressures at startup to test how the engine reacted. The J-2X is being developed by Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. It is the first liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket engine rated to carry humans into space to be developed in 40 years.

J-2X Engine Ready For Second Test Series


WASHINGTON (NASA PR) —
The next-generation engine that will help carry humans deeper into space than ever is back, bigger and better. The J-2X engine is currently on the A-2 Test Stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for an extensive round of tests to build on last year’s successful test firings. The engine will provide upper-stage power for NASA’s evolved Space Launch System (SLS), a new heavy-lift rocket capable of missions to deep space.

“We’re making steady and tangible progress on our new heavy-lift rocket that will launch astronauts on journeys to destinations farther in our solar system,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, who recently visited Stennis and saw the J-2X in its test stand. “As we continue test firings of the J-2X engine and a myriad of other work to open the next great chapter of exploration, we’re demonstrating our commitment right now to America’s continued leadership in space.”

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Fiery Video: NASA’s J-2X Engine Passes Key Testing Milestone

NASA PR — NASA conducted a successful 500-second test firing of the J-2X rocket engine on Wednesday, Nov. 9, marking another important step in development of an upper stage for the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS).

SLS will carry the Orion spacecraft, its crew, cargo, equipment and science experiments to destinations in deep space. SLS will be safe, affordable and sustainable to continue America’s journey of discovery from the unique vantage point of space.
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NASA Readies J-2X Engine for Test Firings

NASA PR — BAY ST. LOUIS, Miss. — NASA’s new J-2X rocket engine, which could power the upper stage of the nation’s future heavy-lift launch vehicle, is ready for its first round of testing. The fully assembled engine was installed Saturday in the A-2 Test Stand at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Beginning in mid-June, the engine will undergo a series of 10 test firings that will last several months.
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NASA: J-2X Engine Development Moving Along Smoothly

J-2X Turbopump Inspection Engineers, from left, Lakiesha V. Hawkins, David C. Reynolds, and Cynthia L. Sprader inspect the J-2X fuel turbopump first stage nozzle after a successful test series in Marshall's Test Stand 116. Photo credit: NASA/MSFC/D. Olive

NASA PR — Engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center gave a key component of the J-2X engine a brisk workout to ensure it can withstand its extreme operating environment. The engine’s fuel turbopump first stage nozzle passed the test, performing even better than expected.

The J-2X is a highly efficient and versatile upper stage rocket engine that can stop and restart in space to support a variety of mission requirements. Full-scale testing begins later this summer but before then, engineers examined the longevity and durability of the engine’s fuel turbopump first stage nozzle. The nozzle directs hot gas flow onto the turbine blades.

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Engineers Continue Work on J-2X Engine

PRATT & WHITNEY ROCKETDYNE PROGRAM UPDATE
Dec. 21, 2010

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed another major subassembly for NASA’s first J-2X rocket engine.  A highly-efficient and versatile engine, the J-2X will help sustain the critical design and manufacturing skills required for the United States to maintain its leadership position in human space exploration and its engineering expertise necessary to support national security.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.
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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 PRESS RELEASE

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.
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Purdue University Facility Works on Improving NASA Moon Engine

SOURCE: PURDUE UNIVERSITY NEWS SERVICE

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University engineers are conducting experiments using a new hydrogen facility to help NASA create designs to improve the cooling efficiency and performance of the J-2X rocket engine, critical for future missions to Mars and the moon.

More efficient cooling improves performance and reduces the need for costly overhauls, said William Anderson, an associate professor in Purdue’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

The new hydrogen facility allows Purdue researchers to study fundamental processes in hydrogen-oxygen engines, such as the J-2X and the engine that will be used by astronauts during their descent to the moon.

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