NASA wants a whole new crop of rocket engines from engine manufacturer Aerojet Rocketdyne. The space agency just awarded the company a $1.16 billion contract, restarting Aerojet’s production line for its RS-25 engines. Four RS-25s will be used as the primary engines in NASA’s next big rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), which could take humans into deep space and on to Mars someday.
The RS-25 is no stranger to lifting heavy vehicles into space. These engines were also the main ones used on the Space Shuttle — the predecessor to SLS. However, modifications had to be made to the engines to ensure that they’ll work on the SLS. The new rocket will experience colder temperatures than the Shuttle did, as well as greater pressures and speeds. NASA has been running a series of hot fire tests on the updated RS-25 engines this past year, to see if they hold up under the most extreme conditions.
THE RS-25 IS NO STRANGER TO LIFTING HEAVY VEHICLES INTO SPACE
Those tests have proved successful, so now it seems NASA is ready to fully commit to the engines. Right now, NASA only has 16 leftover Shuttle engines that have been upgraded for SLS. The plan is to use those on the first four missions of the rocket, including the first two crucial test flights known as Exploration Mission-1 and Exploration Mission-2.