Exploration Flight Test-1 Mission

As a member of the Orion team since 2006, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide propulsion for nearly every component of the Orion spacecraft, as well as propulsion for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle.

  • Stage 1 and Stage 2 engines for the Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle
  • Orion Crew Module
  • Orion Service Module
  • Launch Abort System (LAS) - Jettison Motor

Hitching a Ride on the ULA Delta IV Heavy

The launch of EFT-1 will use a Delta IV Heavy rocket, powered by three Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-68 engines—each of which produces 663,000 pounds of thrust generating more than 17 million horsepower.

ARDÉ, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne, will provide the pressure vessels on first and second stages of the launch vehicle.


Stage 1 – Booster Stage

The huge rocket will use three RS-68-powered Common Booster Cores (CBC), which burn liquid hydrogen propellant, with liquid oxygen used as an oxidizer.

  • Commercially-developed liquid hydrogen/oxygen engine
  • One engine provides 663,000 pounds of thrust
  • One engine produces more than 17 million horsepower
  • One RS-68 fuel pump is equal to the power of 16 locomotives
  • Simplified design with fewer parts
  • Lower development and production costs


Stage 2 - Upper Stage

The second stage is a five-meter Delta Cryogenic Second Stage (DCSS), which will be powered by an RL10B-2 engine. It will use the same propellants as the first stage.

  • Twelve small monopropellant thrusters on the Delta cryogenic second stage will provide roll, pitch, yaw and settling burns.
  • The RL10B-2 features the world's largest carbon-carbon extendible nozzle. This high-expansion ratio nozzle enables the RL10B-2 to achieve 465.5 seconds of specific impulse and lift payloads of up to 30,000 lbs.
  • Provides 24,750 pounds of thrust

Orion Crew Module

The crew module is designed to transport four crew members beyond low-Earth orbit. It will provide a safe habitat from launch through landing and recovery. While the EFT-1 mission will be unmanned, the crew module will hold many of Orion’s most critical systems.

  • Aerojet Rocketdyne led the design, manufacture and testing of the full complement of primary and redundant control required for the Orion crew module’s critical maneuvers upon a high-speed re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Twelve AR 160-pound-thrust monopropellant thrusters, designated as MR-104G engines, will be arranged in four single-engine pods and four dual-engine pods, including: two pitch-up pods with a single rocket engine; two pitch-down pods, each with a single rocket engine; one right and one left roll pods, each with dual rocket engines; and one right and one left yaw pods, each with dual rocket engines.

Orion Service Module

While the EFT-1 mission does not carry a functioning service module, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide eight Auxiliary Engine thrusters to support the launch for the Exploration Mission-1 flight. The Auxiliary engines are 110-pound-thrust bipropellant thrusters, designated as R-4D with a 164:1 area ratio.

In addition to the auxiliary engines, Aerojet Rocketdyne is supporting refurbishment of Shuttle OMS-E engines for use as the main engine on the Orion Service modules. The refurbished Shuttle engines will provide 6,000 lbf of thrust to support major in-space maneuvers of the Orion spacecraft.

The service module will provide support to the crew module from launch through crew module separation prior to entry. It will provide in-space propulsion capability for orbital transfer, attitude control, and high altitude ascent aborts.

  • While mated with the crew module, it also provides water, oxygen and nitrogen to support the crew module living environment, generates and stores power while in space, and provides primary thermal control.
  • The service module also has the capability to accommodate unpressurized cargo.

Orion Launch Abort System

The launch abort system, positioned above the crew module, is designed to activate within milliseconds to pull the crew to safety and position the module for a safe landing. It is designed to protect astronauts if a problem arises during launch by pulling the spacecraft away from a failing rocket.

  • The LAS is comprised of three solid propellant rocket motors: the abort motor, an attitude control motor, and an Aerojet Rocketdyne jettison motor.
  • The jettison motor will pull the LAS away from the crew module, allowing Orion’s parachutes to deploy and the spacecraft to land safely on the ground.
  • The Launch Abort System can move at transonic speeds that are nearly three times faster than the top speed of a fast sports car.
  • The jettison motor can safely pull the Launch Abort System away from the crew module to a height of 240 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other