Engines for the new program DARPA successfully pass the tests

Original author: Jeff Foust
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Burn the AR-22 on a test bench at the John Stennis Space Center, July 2, the sixth launch in six days in a test series. Source: Aerojet Rocketdyne

WASHINGTON - Daily tests as a way to prove the suitability of the engine remaining from the Shuttles for the new shuttle program.

The AR-22 engine of Aerojet Rocketdyne "crossed the equator" - by July 2 at the John Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, reported 6 out of 10 burns, 100 seconds each, and expect to successfully complete the ten-day program according to schedule.

“In fact, this is the main engine of the Shuttle with minor alterations,” explains Jeff Hines, who runs the AR-22 program at Aerojet, “I didn’t have to specifically develop and manufacture components from scratch, we just took what we had and proved its reliability in flight, and used again. "

“This engine will be used in SLS , and we had to develop a new controller for it. Perhaps this is the main difference between the AR-22 and the original RS-25, ”he specifies,“ That is, we just brought its computer system to the modern level. ”
“Otherwise, no new technology,” says Jeff.

With the current series of tests, the company demonstrates that the engine can also be used 10 times within 10 days. This is DARPA ’s key requirement for a promising “experimental space plane”, and therefore the AR-22 will become the marching engine of the Phantom Express, the prototype of such a space plane being developed at Boeing.

Despite the fact that the progenitors of the AR-22 have been in use for decades, they have never been subjected to such frequent repeated burning. Heins claims that he is known only for a single case, when the same engine was started only two days in a row. “But now we have significantly exceeded this result,” Jeff rejoices.

“Skeptics, on various voices, said both ten and six, and even three months ago, that an imminent failure awaits us, that this cannot be, that the engine is not adapted to this,” says Scott Verzhbanovsky, head of the XS program. 1 in DARPA, - "But now they got a good flick on the nose."

The program of the "experimental spaceplane", also known as XS-1, involves the creation of a complex consisting of a returnable first stage, which can be launched daily, and a second stage, which takes up to 1360 kilograms into orbit. in view of the noo). In May 2017, DARPA selected Boeing as the general contractor for the project, ahead of Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman in the preliminary research work.

Boeing, in turn, began to launch some elements of the future Phantom Express. “The composite tank for liquid oxygen is currently undergoing sintering in an autoclave,” said Steve Johnston, director of the advanced space research unit at Boeing. “So the ship is already on the stocks, one can say.”

On most systems, technical design will be completed in the coming months, and the technical design of the device should be fully prepared in 2019, after which the assembly of a prototype will begin in the spring of the same year.

Johnston: “If everything goes according to plan, the Phantom Express will make the first flight around 2021. A huge number of heterogeneous requirements are exposed, and how the test program will look like - depends on the list finally approved by customers. But there surely will be the same thing “to make 10 flights in 10 days,” and we initially lay in our child the ability to start every day without any problems. ”

"But so far, things are fine," adds Verzhbanovsky, "I think we are firmly on the way and get to the place on time."

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