A trio of New Space companies trumpeted progress in important development projects, as impressive next-gen spacecrafts plod the long path from the drawing board to test pad.
Aerojet Rocketdyne, which recently announced a move of its headquarters from the Sacramento area to El Segundo, Calif., said it’s expanding its facility at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to accommodate the next phase of work on its AR-1 rocket propulsion system. The advanced rocket engine is designed to replace the Russian-built RD-180 engine now used in United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launch vehicle.
Also at Stennis, Aerojet continues work to adapt its RS-25 engine for use in NASA’s next-gen SLS heavy-lift launch vehicle now in development.
“We have had a long history of partnering with Stennis to power the nation into space,” Aerojet chief Eileen Drake said in announcing the facility expansion on June 11. “This plan will … solidify NASA’s Stennis Space Center as the nation’s premier rocket engine test facility.”
Meantime, NASA contractor Orbital ATK announced has awarded a contract to Cannes, France-based Thales Alenia Space to supply nine additional cargo modules for integration into United Launch Alliance’s Cygnus spacecraft for Orbital resupply missions to the International Space Station. The deal — revealed at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England, on June 11 — means Orbital will continue hitching rides with ULA while work to upgrade its own Antares rocket continues.
“We are truly proud of the renewed trust that Orbital ATK has put in us,” Thales Alenia vp for exploration and science Walter Cugno said. “The signing of this latest contract represents the continued vote of confidence from a valued customer in our engineering and our facility that provides pressurized cargo modules to resupply the International Space Station.”
And in yet another July 11 announcement, Sierra Nevada Corp. — the latest launch-services provider to be added as an ISS resupply contractor by NASA — said it has completed its design implementation milestone on the Dream Chaser spacecraft.
Dream Chaser, under development for use in ISS resupply missions between 2019 and 2024, will be pared with rockets such as ULA’s Atlas V, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy or Arianespace’s Ariane 5. Uniquely, it will launch vertically but can be landed on a runway when returning from space.
Sierra Nevada marked its development milestone by securing NASA approval on a plan for the design, development, test and evaluation of the Dream Chaser.
Said Mark Sirangelo, corporate vp business for Sierra Nevada: “The prompt completion of this essential program milestone is a big step in bringing us closer to returning a winged, runway-landing vehicle to space. This momentum will carry us with confidence in developing a reliable and affordable solution for ISS cargo delivery, return and disposal.”