Jim Cast

Headquarters, Washington, DC, July 11, 1996

(Phone: 202/358-1779)

June Malone

Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL

(Phone: 205/544-0034)

RELEASE: 96-135


NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL, has selected five teams to develop technologies for air-breathing rocket engines. This is the next step toward developing new rocket propulsion technologies that could take NASA into the next century.

The selected organizations are Gen Corp Aerojet, Sacramento, CA; Kaiser Marquardt, Van Nuys, CA; Pennsylvania State University, State College, PA; Rockwell Aerospace/Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, CA; and United Technologies/Pratt and Whitney, West Palm Beach, FL.

Called a rocket-based combined cycle propulsion system, this new propulsion system would use an engine that consumes atmospheric oxygen and then use a stored oxidizer when beyond the Earth's atmosphere.

NASA's current Space Shuttle propulsion system uses an engine that consumes stored oxidizer exclusively. By reducing the amount of stored oxidizer and improving the engine performance, the weight and cost of the system could be significantly reduced.

"These awards will enable NASA to pursue multiple options for combined cycle air breathing propulsion technologies," according to Uwe Hueter, manager for the rocket-based combined cycle program at Marshall.

Hueter also said, "I'm looking forward to beginning the ground testing of the critical technologies and obtaining the needed data to evaluate the various engine concepts. This will be the first step toward one of our major program milestones--a proof of concept flight demonstration by the year 2000."

This activity is part of NASA's Advanced Space Transportation program, which is managed by Marshall. These awards focus on technological advances in propulsion for the future not addressed by the Reusable Launch Vehicle program and that have the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of access to space.

The next step is for the five organizations and NASA to negotiate contracts. That process is expected to be complete within 60 days. Performance of work should be completed within 24 months, after finalizing the details of each company's contract with NASA.

The current effort is envisioned to be the first of three phases leading to flight demonstrations of the technology for primary launch vehicle propulsion. This first phase will provide initial verification of proposed concepts through ground demonstration of combined rocket and air breathing space propulsion technologies. This phase also provides preliminary designs for flight. Using the most promising concepts identified in ground tests, the second phase will provide flight experiments to demonstrate critical propulsion technologies in the flight environment by the year 2000. In the third phase, NASA anticipates the first flight of a small- scale integrated vehicle and propulsion system, planned for 2002; a large-scale integrated vehicle and propulsion system flight is planned for 2005.

NASA anticipates the total value of the awards for the first phase of this program to be approximately $20 million.



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