RL10 Propulsion System

More than half a century of powering space exploration and national security

For more than fifty years, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 engine has played a vital role in placing hundreds of military, government and commercial satellites into Earth’s orbit, and has helped send spacecraft to explore every planet in our solar system, including Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, the first two spacecraft to reach interstellar space.

Today, multiple models of the RL10 carry the engine’s legacy forward as the launch industry’s “workhorse” by powering the upper stages of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy launch vehicles. A variant of the RL10 has been selected to provide upper stage propulsion for the Vulcan rocket being developed by United Launch Alliance.

RL10 engines also are slated to help power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that is in development to lift astronauts to deep-space destinations aboard the Orion exploration spacecraft. A single RL10 will power the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage during the first un-crewed test flight of SLS and Orion, known as Artemis I. Four RL10 engines will support the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage that is being developed for future versions of SLS.

Aerojet Rocketdyne is also working to qualify a modern version of the engine known as the RL10C-X that will include major components built using 3-D printing technology. Incorporating 3-D printing into the manufacturing process will reduce lead times and cost while maintaining the outstanding performance and reliability customers have come to expect.

Key Features

Program Milestones

  • 1959 First RL10 test
  • 1963 First successful Atlas Centaur flight (two RL10 engines powered upper stage)
  • 1964 Saturn S-4 Launch (six RL10 engines powered upper stage)
  • 1993 First DC-X "Delta Clipper" flight (four RL10A-5 engines powered vehicle)
  • 2002 First Atlas V flight (two RL10A-4-2 engines powered Centaur upper stage)
  • 2009 400th RL10 engine flight
  • 2010 Demonstrated deep-throttling from 104 percent of rated power down to 5.9 percent (an unprecedented thrust range of 17.6:1)
  • 2013 RL10 marks 50 years of service
  • 2014 First flight of RL10C-1
  • 2020 500th RL10 engine flight
  • 2021 First operational use of an RL10 engine equipped with 3D-printed components

Specifications

RL10 Model

RL10B-2
RL10C-2-1

RL10A-4-2

RL10C-1

RL10C-1-1

RL10C-X

RL10C-3

Launch Vehicle: Delta IV Atlas V Atlas V Atlas V, Vulcan Centaur Vulcan Centaur SLS Exploration Upper Stage

Thrust:

24,750 lbf

22,300 lbf

22,890 lbf

23,825 lbf

24,120 lbf

24,340 lbf

Weight:

664 lbs

370 lbs

420 lbs

415 lbs

510 lbs

508 lbs

Fuel:

Liquid hydrogen

Liquid hydrogen

Liquid hydrogen

Liquid hydrogen

Liquid hydrogen

Liquid hydrogen

Oxidizer:

Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen

Nominal Mixture Ratio:

5.88:1

5.5:1

5.5:1

5.5:1

5.5:1

5.7:1

Specific Impulse:

465.5 sec

451.0 sec

449.7 sec

453.8 sec

460.9 sec

460.1 sec

Length:

86.5" (stowed)
163.5" (deployed)

90"

86"

96.7"

130.4"

124.3"

Nozzle Diameter:

84.5"

46"

57"

62"

73.7"

73"