NASA Engineers Complete Engine Test Series For Ares I Rocket

Aug 19, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Engineers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., have completed a series of tests on a key component of the J-2X engine. The J-2X powers the upper stage of the Ares I rocket, which will launch human explorers to the International Space Station and to the moon.

The test on Aug. 15 was the last of 20 in this series, concluding the second of four planned sets of tests on the J-2X's workhorse gas generator, the driver for the turbopumps which start the engine.

The gas generator test program is designed to demonstrate the component's performance, durability and combustion environment, and to reduce risk in the design, fabrication and operation of flight hardware. The third phase of testing will begin in July 2009. The J-2X's workhorse gas generator is fabricated by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif.

The primary objectives achieved in this series of tests were to regulate ignition timing and address stability issues in the gas chamber. During engine start, a pressurized helium system begins to turn the turbopumps, which draw liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants into the system. The propellants flow into the generator's combustion chamber, where they are sparked into life by pyrotechnic igniters installed in the side of the main combustion chamber.

Once combustion is initiated, hot gases flow into the turbine. The combustion gas provided by the generator drives the turbomachinery, which delivers high pressure propellants to the main injector during the J-2X burn. This testing allows engineers to address stability issues that can arise during operation of the combustion chamber and will allow engineers to develop a clean design for the J-2X engine.

Beginning in 2015, the Ares I rocket will carry the Orion crew capsule and as many as six astronauts and small payloads to the International Space Station. During the first two-and-a-half minutes of flight, the first stage booster will power the vehicle to an altitude of about 189,000 feet, or 36 miles, at a speed of Mach 4.8. After its propellant is spent, the reusable booster will separate, and the upper stage's J-2X engine will ignite -- powering the Orion to low Earth orbit at an altitude of about 425,328 feet, or roughly 80 miles.

The workhorse gas generator test series is an essential step in development of the J-2X engine. More than 50 tests have been performed on the generator to date. This generator was manufactured to be more durable than the generators that will be used in the J-2X engine, allowing it to withstand numerous tests.

NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages NASA's Constellation Program, which includes development of the Ares I rocket, the Ares V heavy launch vehicle for cargo launcher, the Orion crew capsule, and the Altair lunar lander. Marshall manages Ares projects for the agency.

Provided by NASA

Explore further: Strong evidence for coronal heating theory presented

Related Stories

Google launches its own mobile telephone service

1 hour ago

Google said Wednesday it was launching its own US mobile wireless service, with considerable potential savings for customers using their devices at home and for international travel.

Recommended for you

Strong evidence for coronal heating theory presented

2 hours ago

The Sun's surface is blisteringly hot at 6,000 kelvins or 10,340 degrees Fahrenheit—but its atmosphere is another 300 times hotter. This has led to an enduring mystery for those who study the Sun: What ...

The view from up there, down here

6 hours ago

When many people saw the first stunning photos of the fragile blue marble of Earth from space, it changed their outlook of humanity. It was a singular moment in time when people around the world were watching ...

The weird ways fire behaves in space (w/ Video)

7 hours ago

Light a match on earth and you can expect the flame to shoot up in a tapering bulb. But light that match in space and you might not even recognize the small, blue orb at the tip. That's because fire behaves ...

Russia loses comms with ISS cargo spacecraft (Update)

10 hours ago

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station were left with a long wait Tuesday to get their latest food and fuel deliveries after an unmanned Russian supply ship lost communications following takeoff.

Liquid crystal bubble OASIS in space

22 hours ago

No matter how beautiful or crystal clear the bubbling waters of an oasis may be, they seldom lead to technology breakthroughs. Yet, NASA's OASIS investigation's bubbles may lead to an ocean of new improvements ...

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.