REDONDO BEACH, Calif., Oct. 30, 2008 -- Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC) has completed manufacturing and integrating a spacecraft engine that runs on the "green" or non-toxic propellants of liquid oxygen and liquid methane for possible use on NASA human exploration missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.
The company's TR408 second-generation, oxygen-methane 100 pound-force reaction control engine (RCE) was designed for the Propulsion and Cryogenics Advanced Development Project within NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program, and features robust operation over widely variable propellant conditions. Propulsion systems using engines like the TR408 may have the potential to use green propellants that are produced from lunar or Martian soil.
"This enabling RCE technology is capable of significantly reducing system complexity by providing stable operation over a broad range of interface conditions," said John Brock, director of Mission and Technology Futures for Northrop Grumman's Space Technology sector. "The next phase of testing will validate our ability to meet or exceed RCE requirements and deliver an engine for NASA development tests."
The TR408 engine's development was managed by NASA's Glenn Research Center with technical direction by NASA's Johnson Space Center. This engine is expected to retire challenging technology risks associated with a cryogenic propellant RCE.
This TR408 RCE design represents an evolution in the company's spacecraft engines, leveraging data from successful tests conducted in vacuum conditions in 2007. It has matured to a fully integrated engine, using protoflight fidelity materials and manufacturing processes.
Key advances include an integrated igniter, an electroformed close-out of the regeneratively-cooled chamber, and a large area ratio nozzle. The engine features robust operation over widely variable propellant conditions, and the current design has the necessary fidelity to retire the next level of RCE technology risks.
Having retired key risks and demonstrated challenging pulse requirements in preceding development tests, the upcoming test campaign will focus on verifying pulse-mode and steady-state performance at nominal and extreme propellant interface conditions.
The test campaign will conclude with long-duration, steady-state tests aimed at collecting nozzle performance data and validating the high performance capabilities of the oxygen-methane propellant combination. The anticipated performance is made possible by coupling the regeneratively-cooled TR408 RCE with a high area ratio nozzle.
Northrop Grumman Corporation is a 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: Bob Bishop Northrop Grumman Space Technology 310.812.5227 Cell: 310.251.0261 firstname.lastname@example.org