Space Launch System got propulsion – Aerojet Rocketdyne awarded with contract

Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide engines for new NASA rocket - Space Launch System.

NASA is still on schedule with their new heavy rocket (about SLS program You can read here). Lately (on 23 November 2015) it was announced that specified engine was chosen as main propulsion for Space Launch System. It seems that new launch system, which was described as huge and ambitious venture, will have something from last NASA great program, Space Shuttle. It will be propulsion.

Aerojet Rocketdyne won double - first their engine will be used for Space Launch System by NASA. Second - Boeing confirmed that same engine will be utilized in their CST-100 Space Taxi project. Aerojet's black horse is called RS-25 (SSME in the times of Space Shuttle) and is known mainly from Space Shuttle (it is another proves that only ambitious concepts are giving long-term results). Production of engine was halted after retiring Space Shuttle and now NASA is promising $1.16 billion for resuming production. Contract runs from November 2015 through September 30, 2024. RS-25 will be modified with implemented cost reducing technologies - great hopes are put into 3D printing. According to vice president, Program Execution, Advanced Space & Launch Programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne, Mr. Jim Paulsen:

"The RS-25 engines designed under this new contract will be expendable with significant affordability improvements over previous versions...This is due to the incorporation of new technologies, such as the introduction of simplified designs; 3-D printing technology called additive manufacturing; and streamlined manufacturing in a modern, state-of-the-art fabrication facility."

Aerojet is implementing Value Stream Mapping in their production which provides additional savings and improvements (Value Stream Mapping - VSM - is management method based on analyzing the current state and planning and continuous improving future state).

Each core of SLS will be powered by four RS-25 engines; one engine generates around 1860 kN at sea level. Whole engine is controlled by Main Engine Controller (MEC) made by Honeywell Aerospace and based on Motorola 68000 processors. It will be probably one of parts designated for update - in spite of fact that Motorola 68000 is still on production after 36 years; new software will be probably implemented. Time for changes and upgrading is short - first launch of SLS is planned on 2018.