REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Nov. 14, 2007 (PRIME NEWSWIRE) -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) successfully hot-fire tested a radically new type of rocket engine specifically designed to use oxygen and methane propellants that range from all-gas to all-liquid at the inlet to the thruster. More than 50 separate tests demonstrated high performance, operating stability and ample design margin of this 100 lbf-thrust rocket, designated the TR408.

The successful tests validate the robust capabilities and high performance of the integrated engine design. "The demonstration test results are impressive considering the broad range of conditions and operational modes tested. The engine far exceeded performance requirements and is on track to deliver a steady-state specific impulse of 340 seconds," stated Mark Trinidad, Northrop Grumman's program manager for the TR408. The TR408 is a simple design that uses only two propellant valves, no moving parts other than valves, and contains a built-in spark igniter to initiate combustion of injected propellants. The reaction control engine operates under short pulse and steady-state modes.

This engine is unique in its capability to fully vaporize both the oxidizer (liquid oxygen) and fuel (liquid methane) by passing these propellants through cooling passages located in the thrust chamber wall before injecting them into the chamber for combustion. If gaseous instead of cryogenic liquid propellants are fed to the engine, the gases still provide cooling and will enter the injector at a higher temperature. A design that ensures gas-gas injection results in consistent performance and combustion stability. Previous rocket engine designs using propellant to cool the chamber do not vaporize any of the propellant or may only vaporize one of the propellants, typically the fuel.

The ability to operate under a broad range of inlet conditions is critical for reducing the complexity and weight of cryogenic propulsion systems that perform random pulsing for attitude control. "We are pleased that in 16 months from contract award, we were able to provide NASA with this demonstration of innovative technology that addresses a critical mission need," said Tom Romesser, vice president of the Technology & Emerging Systems Division for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector.

The development of this new rocket engine has been performed under contract to NASA Glenn Research Center on the Cryogenic Reaction Control Engine program, awarded to Northrop Grumman in February 2006. NASA's Johnson Space Center provided technical management on the effort. Development hot-fire testing under vacuum conditions was performed at Northrop Grumman's Capistrano Test Site located in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

Northrop Grumman Corporation is a $30 billion global defense and technology company whose 120,000 employees provide innovative systems, products, and solutions in information and services, electronics, aerospace and shipbuilding to government and commercial customers worldwide.

  CONTACT:  Erika Raney
          Northrop Grumman Space Technology
          (310) 812-2535