NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne sign $1.16bn contract for Mars rocket
The $1.16 billion contract, which runs from November 2015 through Sept. 30, 2024, is to restart the production line for the RS-25 engine. These production lines have been significantly improved and made more efficient since the retirement of the space shuttle program.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is the prime contractor for the RS-25, and four of these engines will fly on the bottom of the core stage of the SLS rocket, together producing more than two million pounds of thrust.
The first flight test of the SLS is slated for 2018, and it will be configured for a 70-metric-ton lift capacity and carry an uncrewed Orion spacecraft. As SLS evolves, it will be the most powerful rocket ever built and provide an unprecedented lift capability of 130 metric tons.
The new engines will incorporate simplified, yet highly reliable, designs to reduce manufacturing time and cost. For example, the overall engine is expected to simplify key components with dramatically reduced part count and number of welds. At the same time, the engine is being certified to a higher operational thrust level.
In addition to the design simplification, ongoing Value Stream Mapping (VSM) analyses have identified significant cost and schedule benefits by eliminating inefficiencies, redundancies or waste in the production process flow. VSMs were proven effective during the shuttle program and those lessons learned are being applied to the RS-25 restart. ■