NASA fires up a new rocket engine

All aboard the Phantom Express! The NASA Stennis Space Center in Hancock County began testing their AR-22 Engine.

Faster, more responsible, and affordable space access may seem like light-years away, but the NASA Stennis Space Center is now making it possible. Last week they began ground testing for the Aerojet Rocketdyne AR-22 engine, a sibling of the RS-25 engine used on NASA’s space shuttle program. Boeing Program Manager Steve Johnston said, “What’s exciting to us about this program is we get to marry what we know about rapid turn-around affordable commercial jets with what we know about rocketry.”

Their mission is to test the engine every day for ten days for 100 seconds to prove its durability. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is collaborating with Boeing and Aerojet Rocketdyne to create this huge advancement in space exploration.

The AR-22 is set to test again in just 24 hours. Aerojet Rocketdyne Director of Strategy and Business Development for Space Launch Tom Martin said, “We’re trying to show that we can turn this engine around every 24 hours and that’s part of enabling the Phantom Express as a rocket, a launch vehicle, to rapidly turn around launches so we can send things into space quickly and at low cost.”

The engine will power the Phantom Express experimental spaceplane which is scheduled to test flight in 2021, but how exactly does it work? “It burns liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen inside the engine. That reaction creates a huge amount of energy in the form mainly of heat, but the cool thing is it also produces water as the exhaust.”

That gives the engine just eight hours of drying time, eight hours of inspection, and eight hours of preparation to turn again. Reaching for the moon, their ultimate goal is to meet the demand for worldwide connectivity by putting more satellites into orbit.

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