It was great news with high-fives all around in Redmond, Washington as Aerojet Rocketdyne’s (NYSE:AJRD) MR-104J hydrazine monopropellant engine successfully completed hot-fire qualification tests. The US will once again be able to transport up to four astronauts and time-sensitive scientific research for NASA's service missions to the ISS rather than paying Russia to transport the US' astronauts. The hot-fire test demonstrates the MR-104J hydrazine monopropellant engine's ability to meet reusability requirements for Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner crew module propulsion system.
Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake stated that their engineers have incorporated a unique design that will allow the MR-104 engine to be used on multiple missions, providing the reliability, cost-efficiency and reusability the customer needs to be competitive in the current commercial space environment. She added that they look forward to delivering the engines for the crew module and continuing their proud heritage of enabling astronauts to fly to the International Space Station from US soil.
The Starliner crew module propulsion system will use 12 MR-104J engines for reaction control to orient the vehicle during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere. Prior to re-entry, attitude control is provided by the Service Module Engines, also provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne.
The MR-104J, designed by Aerojet Rocketdyne, was developed and tested under the company’s Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) subcontract to Boeing. Similar to other reaction control system engines, the MR-104J includes additional features to increase redundancy that meet critical requirements and improved strength to withstand multiple shocks at operating temperatures. The engine upgrades also provide reusability for Boeing as it certifies Starliner crew modules for multiple missions.
Under the CCtCap subcontract to Boeing, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide propulsion system hardware that includes:
- Crew Module Reaction Control engines
- Launch Abort Engines
- Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control thrusters
- Service Module Reaction Control System thrusters
Boeing will assemble propulsion hardware into the Starliner spacecraft at its Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.