NASA Completes Altitude Testing of Aerojet Advanced Liquid Oxygen/Liquid Methane Rocket Engine

SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 4, 2010 – Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, announced today that NASA has successfully completed altitude testing of Aerojet’s advanced 5500-lbf Liquid Oxygen (LOX)/Liquid Methane (LCH4) Rocket Engine at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility (WSTF). The 5500-lbf LO2/LCH4 engine development effort is funded by the Propulsion and Cryogenics Advanced Development Project (PCAD) under NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program.

The first-generation Aerojet LO2/LCH4 engine, operating at WSTF, is shown in Figure 1 at T + 40 seconds when the engine assembly has reached steady state thermal equilibrium. The engine, as tested at WSTF, demonstrated a specific impulse (Isp) of 345.2 seconds, and based upon an Aerojet extrapolation of the data to a flight type configuration, it would be capable of producing a specific impulse (Isp) of 350 seconds.

Multiple vehicle study activities have shown that a cryogenic LOX/LCH4 propellant combination provides advantages for long-duration storage in space and the ability to be extended for future missions to Mars. This propellant combination is also being studied as a promising option for other deep-space missions due to potential savings in overall systems mass when compared to conventional propellant (hypergolic) systems.

This technology development program’s objective is to provide risk reduction data for this new and novel non-toxic propellant combination. The Aerojet 5500-lbf LOX/LCH4 rocket engine program has provided critical data in both sea-level and high-area-ratio nozzle altitude testing. Aerojet completed a sea-level testing campaign of more than 50 hot-fire tests of this advanced engine and more than 769 seconds of total duration in the summer of 2009. The sea-level testing campaign was concluded at Aerojet with successful completion of a continuous ablative chamber test firing for 110 seconds. This test was conducted to obtain the ablative chamber char rates and anchor Aerojet thermal analysis codes for the altitude chamber design.

After refurbishment, the sea-level injector was delivered to NASA’s WSTF Test Cell 401 for assembly into the altitude test facility.

The altitude engine assembly consists of igniter and injector propellant valves, an altitude ablative chamber and a columbium nozzle extension. The Aerojet altitude engine completed the altitude test matrix, which consisted of eight tests at different mixture ratios and durations. Initial hot fire data and performance data reduction analyses have been completed. Mark Klem, program manager of NASA’s Propulsion and Cryogenics Advanced Development (PCAD) program said, “This testing has provided us with extremely valuable altitude test data to improve the database and design tools for liquid oxygen/liquid methane engines. The NASA and Aerojet team should be complimented on their hard work to provide these data and design tools that are needed to take us a step closer to designing a flight engine.”

Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader principally serving the missile and space propulsion, defense and armaments markets. GenCorp is a leading technology-based manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems with a real estate segment that includes activities related to the entitlement, sale, and leasing of the company’s excess real estate assets. Additional information about Aerojet and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies’ Web sites at and