HANCOCK COUNTY — NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center unveiled a initiative, charting the future for the rocket engine testing facility after the Obama Administration ended NASA’s planned moon mission.
Stennis director Gene Goldman announced plans for the center to test Aerojet AJ26 rocket engines for Orbital Sciences Corp. as part of a NASA partnership with the companies.
Goldman said. “Testing the AJ26 engine not only supplies a service for the Taurus II program, it also provides Stennis a unique opportunity will help sustain the skills and capabilities we need for future test projects.”
The AJ26 testing is part of NASA’s new direction for space exploration. Under the 2011 fiscal year proposed budget, NASA will end its Constellation Program effort to return to the moon and possibly travel beyond. Instead, it will work closer with commercial interests to develop space travel capabilities.
Stennis operators have been modifying their E-1 Test Stand since last April in order to test the AJ26 engines. Work has included construction of a 27-foot-deep flame deflector trench.
Orbital is working in partnership with NASA under the agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportations Services (COTS) joint research and development project. The company Orbital is under contract with NASA through the Commercial Resupply Services program to provide eight cargo missions to the ISS through 2015. The AJ26 Aerojet engines will power Orbital’s Taurus® II space launch vehicle for the supply missions.
“Our team is very excited to begin the ground testing of the AJ26 engine here at Stennis, one of the great rocket engine testing facilities in the world,” said Orbital president and COO J.R. Thompson said.