Stennis Space Center to Begin Boeing Rocketdyne RS-83 Prebur

by John C. Stennis Space Center

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HANCOCK COUNTY, Miss. — Engineers and technicians at Stennis Space Center in the E- Complex are conducting activation tests and final preparations for hot-fire tests of the first large-scale component of the Boeing Rocketdyne RS-83 engine system. The RS-83 engine is one of four designs competing to meet NASA's Space Launch Initiative (SLI) goal of designing a space transportation system with greatly increased safety and reliability at a much lower operating cost than that of current systems. The test article, or component, for this test in the Stennis E-Complex is a near-full-scale preburner that develops approximately 65,000 pounds of thrust. The RS-83 preburner powers both of the engine's turbopumps.

"A series of 15 hot-fire tests of the RS-83 preburner component is scheduled to begin early in October," said NASA's Dave Liberto, RS-83 project manager at Stennis. "There is a possibility the program may extend the testing program to include additional tests on the preburner. This is the first in a series of component and engine tests for various SLI projects that will run nearly non-stop at Stennis through 2005."

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The RS-83 engine is a fuel-rich staged combustion, liquid hydrogen/liquid oxygen engine system developed by the Boeing Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power Unit of The Boeing Company of Canoga Park, Calif. Taking lessons learned from the first generation reusable launch engine — the Space Shuttle Main Engine — which is also manufactured by the Boeing Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power Unit of The Boeing Company, the RS-83 engine is simpler to build and maintain. Its improved controllability and increased reliability promises to surpass the mission success of the Space Shuttle Main Engine.

There are currently four competing engine design programs funded under SLI. Boeing Rocketdyne Power and Propulsion has two designs, the RS-83 and the RS-84, a liquid oxygen/kerosene-fueled engine with more than one million pounds of thrust. TRW Space and Electronics of Redondo Beach, Calif., is developing the TR-107 main engine, also a liquid oxygen/kerosene-fueled engine in the one-million-pound-thrust class. The COBRA (Co-Optimized for Reusable Applications) engine is a liquid oxygen/hydrogen-fueled engine in the 600,000-pound thrust class developed by a joint venture between Pratt ? Whitney of West Palm Beach, Fla., and Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif.

Liberto said that component testing for both the RS-83 and the RS-84 has been scheduled. Subscale testing of the RS-84 preburner and main injector will begin in spring 2003. "Stennis will run a series of 12 tests on the sub-scale preburner before joining it to the main injector for a series of 26 tests beginning April 2003," he said.

Modifications to the E-Complex will be made over the next two years to accommodate near full-scale component testing for the RS-84 and TRW's TR107 programs. Stennis plans to test a near- full-scale, heavyweight RS-84 preburner on the E-1 test stand by 2004.

"Propulsion is leading the SLI efforts," said NASA's Garry Lyles, SLI propulsion project manager, Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Ala. "Data gained from the testing program at Stennis of full-scale components gives NASA the information needed to make decisions about which designs will meet the overall SLI goals." Stennis' E-Complex is the nation's largest test facility of its kind and serves as a developmental rocket engine component test facility for future generation rocket engines. The flexible, three-stand complex with seven separate test cells can carry out rocket engine testing or other types of testing involving ultra high-pressure gases and high-pressure, super-cold fluids.

The Space Launch Initiative is NASA's technology research and development program aimed at dramatically increasing safety and reliability and reducing the cost of a second-generation reusable launch vehicle. All NASA's field centers and the Air Force Research Laboratory are participating in the Space Launch Initiative and are vital to its success. The Marshall Space Flight Center implements the Space Launch Initiative for NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology.