HANCOCK COUNTY — Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests on the certified RS-68A engine, the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled engine.
The tests demonstrated the capability of the engine to operate for 4,800 seconds of cumulative run time – four times the design life of the engine and more than 10 times what is needed to boost a United Launch Alliance heavy-lift rocket into space.
The tests took place at John C. Stennis Space Center.
Dan Adamski, RS-68 program manager, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, said, “The RS-68A performed beautifully and as expected, and test results indicate no issues with the engine hardware, further demonstrating its readiness as a heavy-lift engine. The tests also provided invaluable data that improves our ability to predict the performance of the engine on launch day.”
The RS-68A is a liquid-hydrogen/liquid-oxygen booster engine designed to provide increased thrust and improved fuel efficiency for the Delta IV family of launch vehicles. It evolved from the RS-68 engine, which was developed and certified for commercial use entirely on private company funds. Each RS-68A will provide 702,000 pounds of lift-off thrust, or 39,000 more pounds of thrust than the RS-68 engine, with increased combustion efficiency as well.
In addition to the successful margin demonstration testing of the RS-68A engine, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, together with NASA, has begun testing on the upper-stage J-2X engine. To date, five hot-fire tests have been conducted on the J-2X, which could be used to boost humans beyond low-Earth orbit.