NASA’s J-2X Engine Ready for Second Round of Testing
I remember the days of a TV being wheeled into class to watch the early launches of the space shuttle. Missions to launch a new satellite or conduct experiments were cool, but (as a kid) I always secretly hoped the astronauts would hijack the shuttle and zip off toward the moon or maybe Mars. The shuttle program might be in mothballs, but that doesn’t mean NASA is through with manned space exploration.
The J-2X engine is a serious rocket intended to be part of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), part of a drive to extend humanity’s reach into the heavens. The new liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen rocket is a redesign of the old J-2s used in the Apollo program. It is being developed by Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne.
“The first round of testing helped us get to know the engine, how it operates and its basic performance characteristics,” said Tom Byrd, J-2X engine lead in the SLS Liquid Engines Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, AL. “Now, we’re looking forward to testing J-2X in the SLS flight configuration, collecting nozzle data and continuing to learn about the performance of the engine itself.”
Not only does the J-2X represent the future of manned space exploration, it’s also a step forward in design. The engine nozzle on the new rocket is shorter than that used to launch the shuttle and, while both use hydrogen cooling, the J-2X uses a passive cooled nozzle extension. Alongside the engine testing, NASA is also working on other critical components for a full launch, including gas generator, oxygen and fuel turbopumps, and related ducts and valves.
“We’re making steady and tangible progress on our new heavy-lift rocket that will launch astronauts on journeys to destinations farther in our solar system,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “As we continue test firings of the J-2X engine and a myriad of other work to open the next great chapter of exploration, we’re demonstrating our commitment right now to America’s continued leadership in space.”
Below you’ll find a video showing the installation of the engine.