Aerojet Completes Acceptance Testing On NASAs 2nd Orion R-4D Engine


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Aerojet Completes Acceptance Testing On NASAs 2nd Orion R-4D Engine

Eddy Metcalf

November 5, 2010 – Aerojet company in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and NASA, successfully completed acceptance testing on the second R-4D development engine.

The R-4D is the Aerojet engine that will be used on NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle for the service module auxiliary propulsion. Eight R-4D engines, arranged in four pods of two each, will provide thrust for critical Orion maneuvers. 

The R-4D acceptance testing was a critical milestone in the Orion Service Module Auxiliary Propulsion Program. Completion of this testing demonstrates incremental progress and opens the way for the next phase of development testing. 


This testing achieved several firsts for the program including flight design bimetallic (Columbium-Titanium) nozzle; flight design valves (120V and 72.25 ohm coils); flight-like pressure transducer; validation of Orion-specific fabrication and test processes; verification of Orion-specific tooling and special test equipment; and demonstration of new processes that include the Aerojet Electric Discharge Machined (EDM) R-4D -11 injector.

“It was very gratifying to see the fruits of a three-year design effort come together in a very successful engine test. It was a flawless demonstration of engineering and manufacturing expertise,” said Aerojet Orion Program Manager Scott Jennings. 

Aerojet supplies the complete engine complement for the Orion Service Module including: 16 25-pound-thrust engines arranged in four pods providing RCS capability, eight 100-pound-thrust bipropellant engines arranged in four pods providing auxiliary axial thrust for system maneuvers and a 7,500-pound-thrust Orion main engine providing axial thrust for major position changes and deorbit.  

Additionally, Aerojet will supply 12 160-pound-thrust monopropellant engines for the Orion crew module reaction control system and the jettison motor that provides thrust needed to separate the launch abort system from the crew module in either a nominal or aborted launch scenario. 

Orion is a spacecraft which was designed by Lockheed Martin for NASA, the space agency of the United States. Orion development began as part of the Constellation program, where Orion would fulfill the function of a Crew Exploration Vehicle. 


Each Orion spacecraft is projected to carry a crew of four astronauts. The spacecraft was originally designed to be launched by the Ares I launch vehicle, for the Constellation Program. As of 11 October 2010, with the canceling of the Constellation Program the Orion vehicle is now planned to be launched onto top of a Shuttle-Derived Heavy Lift Vehicle. 

Orion would launch from Launch Complex 39 at Kennedy Space Center, the same launch complex used by the Space Shuttle and the Saturn V. While shuttle operations continued from launch pad 39A, 39B was readied for Ares launches. The first crewed Orion flight is anticipated in 2016. Subsequent flights would visit the International Space Station. If commercial orbital transportation services are unavailable, Orion would handle logistic flights to the station. After that, Orion may become a key component of human missions beyond low earth orbit which may included missions to lagrange points, Near-Earth objects, the Moon and Mars. 

The federal government proposed cancellation of the Constellation program in February 2010 and was signed into law October 11. The bill is basically a retooling of the Constellation Program, moving the objective away from a moon base and more towards a NEO mission and an eventual Mars landing. 

Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor to NASA for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, which is being developed as the nation’s next generation spacecraft for future human exploration throughout our solar system. Aerojet is part of the nationwide Orion industry team led by Lockheed Martin, which includes five major subcontractors and an expansive network of minor subcontractors and small businesses working at 88 facilities in 28 states across the country. Orion is scheduled to make its first orbital test flight in 2013.


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