Shelby Supports SLS Competition While Contractors Worry in California

Sen. Richard Shelby

In an effort to improve the prospects of contractors in his own state, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby is urging that NASA undertake competitive bidding for parts of the Space Launch System, specifically solid-rocket boosters produced in Utah. In a letter to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, the Republican senator wrote:

I am concerned, therefore, that NASA is considering a Space Launch System architecture that relies on a booster system for the Space Shuttle. I am particularly concerned that this plan might be implemented without a meaningful competitive process. Designing a Space Launch System for heavy lift that relies on existing Shuttle boosters ties NASA, once again, to the high fixed costs associated with segmented solids. Moreover, I have seen no evidence that foregoing competition for the booster system will speed development of the SLS or, conversely, that introducing competition will slow the program down.


Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Joins Rocket City Space Pioneers Team

DYNETICS PR — Dynetics and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) announced today at the National Space Symposium that PWR has joined the Rocket City Space Pioneers as the newest team member. The Rocket City Space Pioneers team is a group of businesses led by Dynetics, competing in the $30 million Google Lunar X PRIZE.

Tim Pickens, team leader of the Rocket City Space Pioneers, said: “Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne will be a key player on our team. We are very fortunate to have such a reputable space company with a proven history of success join us on our mission.”


Crew Safety Systems Advance

Orion abort motor test firing

As the United States moves toward building replacement vehicles for the retiring space shuttle, substantial attention is being focused on how to keep crews safe in the event of a booster malfunction. This has led to the development of innovative “pusher” abort systems with escape rockets below the vehicle instead of on top of it. These systems are being developed by Boeing, Blue Origin and SpaceX. Other key projects include an emergency detection system for the Atlas V and Delta IV boosters and an autonomous flight safety system to improve range operations.


Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Completes Reviews on New Delta IV Upper Stage

United Launch Alliance's Delta IV Heavy.

P&WR PR — CANOGA PARK, Calif., March 8, 2011 — Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of Hardware Acceptance Reviews on the first RS-68A production rocket engine, validating the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled engine is ready to power a heavy-lift vehicle into space in support of national security.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE :UTX) company.

“RS-68A engine 30003 has demonstrated all the requirements for flight over a wide range of operating conditions,” said Dan Adamski, RS-68 program manager, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.  “We look forward to working with our customers to ensure the RS-68A engines powering the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle are successful in delivering their important payload into orbit.”


Cool Video: Abort Engine Tests in the Desert

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne tests a launch abort engine for Boeing’s CST-100 planned capsule in the California desert. The engine would power a “pusher” abort system designed to rocket the 7-crew capsule away from danger in the event of a problem with the booster. CST-100 is Boeing’s entry into NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.

A reader points me to this description of an earlier Rocketdyne project, the RS-88 engine, that was tested for use in Lockheed Martin’s planned Pad Abort Demonstration vehicle. The engine under went 14 hot-fire tests, but it was never used in any abort tests because the PAD vehicle was abandoned. The engine was later loaned to Rocketplane Global, a company that was developing a reusable suborbital space plane. That company has since went bankrupt.

Boeing Tests “Pusher” Abort System for CST-100 Vehicle

Boeing's CST-100 crew transport. (Credit: Boeing)

P&WR PR — Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests of the Bantam demonstration engine for an innovative “pusher” launch abort system on The Boeing Company’s CST-100 spacecraft.  The launch abort engine is a critical component of future commercial crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.

A pusher launch abort system “pushes” or propels a spacecraft toward safety if a launch abort is needed and, if unused for an abort, the propellant can be used for other portions of the mission. The tests were conducted on a new test stand in the California desert.


Rocket Exec to NASA: Pick a Direction Soon or Risk Crisis

UTC unit sees crisis in U.S. space industrial base

The U.S. space industrial base is facing a crisis unless NASA soon unveils a plan for developing new spacecraft after its final space shuttle mission in June, a top industry executive said on Monday.

Jim Maser, president of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, said his company already had plans to close half its office and factory space over the next three years, and might have to lay off hundreds of employees unless NASA mapped out a shuttle successor plan within the next four to eight months.


Engineers Continue Work on J-2X Engine

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.

Sierra Nevada, Orbital Reps Join California Space Authority Board


Nine key space leaders have been elected to the Board of Directors of the California Space Authority, a statewide non-profit organization.  Of that total, four are new Board members while five are returning to the Board of Directors.  A three-year term of office will begin for the elected Board members starting January 2011.

The new Board members are Mark Pieczynski of Orbital Sciences Corp., Julie Van Kleeck of Aerojet, Ron Ramos of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, and Lisa Matthews of Sierra Nevada Corp.  Returning Board members are Julie Sattler of Lockheed Martin, Al Hoffman of Boeing, Randall Garber of AT Kearney, Alan Jones of ATK and Tim Bennett of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.


Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne Wins NASA Contract for HLV Study

Dec. 13, 2010

NASA has awarded Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne a contract worth approximately $622,000 to conduct systems analysis and trade studies for heavy-lift launch vehicle system concepts, propulsion technologies and affordability.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.

“As a provider of human-rated rocket engine technology with decades of proven success, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is honored to help NASA evaluate heavy-lift launch vehicle concepts and propulsion technologies for affordability and sustainability – aspects essential for future space exploration missions,” said Jim Maser, president, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne.


PopSci’s Best List includes Xombie, Falcon 9, X-37B and Waverider

X-51 Waverider

Popular Science‘s “Best of What’s New 2010” list includes four projects that we have been closely following here at Parabolic Arc:

Congratulations to all the winners!

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.

NASA Tests Advanced Rockets for Planetary Landings

Testing of the Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine, also known as CECE, at 100 percent power level. (NASA/PWR)

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – Spacecraft attempting to land on an unfamiliar surface need to perform a maneuver called “deep throttling” — a step that allows the vehicle to precisely throttle down to perform a smooth, controlled landing. NASA, in partnership with Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR) headquartered in Canoga Park, Calif., has demonstrated this type of engine control capability to help design a more reliable and robust descent engine that could be used to land space exploration vehicles on the moon, an asteroid or another planet.

The Common Extensible Cryogenic Engine, also known as CECE, recently completed the fourth and final series of hot-fire tests on a 15,000-pound thrust class cryogenic technology demonstrator rocket engine, increasing the throttling capability by 35 percent over previous tests. This test series demonstrated this engine could go from a thrust range of 104 percent power down to 5.9 percent. This equates to an unprecedented 17.6:1 deep-throttling capability, which means this cryogenic engine can throttle up and back down quickly.