Hot fire tests steer space launch system engines

Apr 23, 2013
J-2X engine test firing on April 4, 2103, at Stennis Space Center. Credit: NASA/SSC

(Phys.org) —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 (SLS). The rocket will provide an entirely new capability for and send humans in NASA's into deep space.

J-2X engine 10002 was fired for the last time on the A-2 at Stennis on April 17. This engine set a duration record for J-2X engine firings at Stennis' A-2 test stand on April 4 when it fired for 570 seconds, beating the previous mark set less than a month earlier on March 7, when the same engine ran for 560 seconds.

This is the second J-2X engine Stennis has test fired. Last year, test conductors put the first developmental J-2X engine, called 10001, through its paces. According to J-2X managers, both performed extremely well.

When the engine is eventually used in space, it will need to be able to move to help steer the rocket.

"The A-1 is designed to allow us to gimbal, or pivot, the J-2X during a live firing and test the range of motion for the engine's flexible parts," said Gary Benton, manager of the J-2X at Stennis. "This type of testing hasn't been performed since the space shuttle main engines were tested on the stand."

Those space shuttle main engines, also called RS-25s, will make a return to the test stand in 2014. A collection of RS-25 engines, which were used to launch 135 missions, will be rated to operate at a higher power level and used to launch the core stage of the SLS.

"While we will get valuable data on the engine from the firing and gimbaling of the J-2X, we're also re-testing the function of the A-1 stand," said Mike Kynard, manager of the SLS Liquid Engines Office at NASA's Marshall Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., where the SLS Program is managed. "Using A-1 to work on the J-2X gives us a great opportunity to ensure the stand will be capable and ready to test the RS-25s."

The March 7 test, which set the short-lived duration record, was remarkable for another reason in that it marked the first time a 3-D printed part was hot-fire tested on a engine system.

The prime contractor for the liquid engine, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., built a maintenance port cover for the 10002 engine using an advanced manufacturing process called Selective Laser Melting. This construction method uses lasers to fuse metal dust into a specific pattern to build the needed part.

"This demonstrates affordable manufacturing in a revolutionary way," Kynard said. "The maintenance port cover built with Selective Laser Melting cost only 35 percent of the cost to make the same part using traditional methods. It performed well enough that we have started building other rocket engine parts using this advanced process, which takes days instead of months. It is a significant savings and one that we'll take advantage of when we build parts in the future."

The SLS will first launch during Exploration Mission-1 in 2017, a flight test that will send an uncrewed Orion spacecraft around the moon.

Explore further: Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

Related Stories

J-2X engine 'goes the distance'

Feb 28, 2013

(Phys.org)—J-2X rocket engine testing continues at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi with the second in a series of tests conducted on Feb. 27.

NASA's new upper stage engine passes major test

Nov 09, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- 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). ...

Image: The shake, rattle and roar of the J-2X engine

May 17, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The shake, rattle and roar lasted just seven seconds, but the short J-2X test conducted May 16 at NASA's John C. Stennis Space Center in south Mississippi moved the space agency ever closer to ...

NASA tests deep space J-2X rocket engine

Sep 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- NASA conducted a 40-second test of the J-2X rocket engine Sept. 28, the most recent in a series of tests of the next-generation engine selected as part of the Space Launch System architecture ...

J-2X engine ready for second test series

Apr 25, 2012

(Phys.org) -- 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 ...

Recommended for you

Comet dust—planet Mercury's 'invisible paint'

1 hour ago

A team of scientists has a new explanation for the planet Mercury's dark, barely reflective surface. In a paper published in Nature Geoscience, the researchers suggest that a steady dusting of carbon from p ...

It's 'full spin ahead' for NASA soil moisture mapper

4 hours ago

The 20-foot (6-meter) "golden lasso" reflector antenna atop NASA's new Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory is now ready to wrangle up high-resolution global soil moisture data, following the successful ...

What drives the solar cycle?

4 hours ago

You can be thankful that we bask in the glow of a relatively placid star. Currently about halfway along its 10 billion year career on the Main Sequence, our sun fuses hydrogen into helium in a battle against ...

MESSENGER completes 4,000th orbit of Mercury

4 hours ago

On March 25, the MESSENGER spacecraft completed its 4,000th orbit of Mercury, and the lowest point in its orbit continues to move closer to the planet than ever before. The orbital phase of the MESSENGER ...

ESA recovers IXV spaceplane

4 hours ago

ESA's recovered IXV spaceplane arrived at the Port of Livorno in Italy yesterday and is set to be taken to Turin for final analysis.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.