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Engine tests for NASA’s next-gen Space Launch System begin

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A concept design of Ares V rocket which will be NASA's new Space Launch System. The advanced J-2X engine will power the upper stage of the SLS.

CANOGA PARK, CALIFORNIA (BNS): Even as the US Space Shuttle era drew curtains on Thursday with the final touching down of Atlantis, efforts for future human space flight programmes continued with the successful testing of NASA’s advanced J-2X engine.

The new-generation engine, being developed to power the NASA-designed heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), successfully completed a chill test and 1.9 second ignition test at John C. Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, the engine’s manufacturer Pratt and Whitney announced.

Fueled by liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, the J-2X engine will generate 294,000 pounds of thrust to lift a spacecraft into low-Earth orbit.

“The successful start of J-2X engine testing demonstrates Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is ready to be a part of the next generation of future space solutions, including a heavy-lift launch vehicle as well as commercial space options,” Walt Janowski, director and programme manager of J-2X Engine Program, at Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne said.

NASA had awarded USD 1.2 billion contract to Pratt & Whitney in 2007 to design the J-2X upper-stage engine originally meant for the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles that were later renamed as the Space Launch System.

NASA has envisioned to design the SLS, a Space Shuttle-derived heavy launch vehicle, for both crew and cargo transport missions.

The J-2X engine will continue testing over the next several months, ahead of Congressional deliberations on additional funding for NASA, Pratt & Whitney, which also built the main engines for the Space Shuttles, said.

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