Aerojet Delivers Engines

Aerojet Delivers Engines
Power: Two of the four Aerojet Rocketdyne engines that will launch NASA’s Artemis III mission.

Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc. has delivered the four engines that will power the Artemis III mission to take humans back to the moon. 

The company also announced last monh it had received a $67 million contract from Lockheed Martin Corp. to provide propulsion systems for the Orion spacecraft, planned to launch on Artemis missions VI to VIII.

The El Segundo aerospace and defense contractor last month said it had completed the four RS-25 engines that will power the core stage of NASA’s super heavy-lift Space Launch System rocket during the historic Artemis III mission, scheduled to take place in the middle of this decade.

Eileen P. Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne chief executive, called the mission “pivotal” in the nation’s goal to return American astronauts to the surface of the Moon, establish a sustained presence there and pave the way for crewed
missions to Mars.

“As our nation makes this next giant leap in its space program, it is leveraging the extensive knowledge and lessons learned that were gained during our earlier exploration efforts, including the Apollo, Space Shuttle and Artemis I missions,” Drake said in a statement. 

“We are truly standing on the shoulders of those who pioneered the exploration of deep space.”

The Artemis I mission took place late last year; it sent an uncrewed Orion capsule around the moon, proving it is capable of safely carrying humans to deep space on Artemis II before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. 

The four RS-25 engines to be used on Artemis III have flown on the Space Shuttle and have been upgraded to generate about 2 million pounds of combined thrust.

The Artemis III RS-25 engines supported 26 Space Shuttle missions, including multiple International Space Station assembly missions; the flight of late U.S. Senator John Glenn, one of the original Mercury astronauts; and the shuttle program’s return to flight following the Columbia accident in 2003.

In addition to the RS-25 engines, Aerojet has delivered all of its other propulsion systems for the Artemis III SLS rocket and a majority of the propulsion systems for the Orion spacecraft, according to the company.

Additional Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion on the Artemis III mission includes the RL10 engine and 12 MR-106 reaction control system thrusters that will support the SLS’s second stage. 

Aerojet also supplies major propulsion elements for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, including the Orion main engine; the jettison motor on the launch abort system; eight auxiliary engines for trajectory control and positioning on the service module; and 12 reaction control system engines that guide the Orion crew module’s atmospheric re-entry.

Aerojet’s Artemis III propulsion contributions are designed, built and tested at various sites across the country, including Chatsworth; NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi; West Palm Beach, Florida; Redmond, Washington; Huntsville, Alabama; and Orange, Virginia.

The contract with Lockheed extends one that Aerojet received in 2019.

It includes delivery of three additional sets of Orion’s service module auxiliary engines and three additional jettison motors. 

The eight auxiliary engines each produce 105 pounds of thrust to help maintain Orion’s in-space trajectory and position and supplement the Orion main engine.

“Orion is NASA’s deep space exploration vehicle,” Drake said in a statement. “Aerojet Rocketdyne is delivering the propulsion systems that will take the first woman and the first person of color to the moon and create a sustainable presence on the lunar surface and develop technologies that will one day enable us to send astronauts to Mars.”

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