Aerojet Rocketdyne (NYSE: AJRD) supported the successful launch of the Air Force Space Command-5 (AFSPC-5) mission. The mission, which will include a propulsion experiment using Aerojet Rocketdyne Hall thrusters on the military’s X-37B space plane, was launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida by a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion also included an RL10C-1 upper-stage engine, six helium pressurization tanks and a dozen Centaur upper-stage thrusters for roll, pitch, yaw and settling burns.

“It’s extremely gratifying to know that our propulsion systems, along with the hard work and dedication of our talented employees who helped develop them, are playing such a critical role in these important missions,” said Steve Bouley, vice president of Space Launch Systems at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

“This on-orbit experimental demonstration aboard the X-37B space vehicle will provide critical insight for modifications intended to improve Hall thruster efficiency and robustness for future satellite propulsion applications,” said Warren Yasuhara, vice president of the Space Systems Business Unit at Aerojet Rocketdyne.

After the Atlas V lifted off the pad and the upper stage separated from the first stage booster, a single RL10C-1 engine ignited to place the payload into orbit, helped by the thrusters and other Aerojet Rocketdyne-provided hardware for both the booster and upper stage. The RL10C-1 engine delivers 22,890 pounds of thrust to power the upper stage, using cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants during its operation. ARDÉ, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne based in New Jersey, provides the pressure vessels on the first and second stages on the launch vehicle.

The Hall thruster produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne is an electric propulsion device that produces thrust by ionizing and accelerating xenon.

The experiment will enable in-space characterization of Hall thruster design modifications that are intended to improve performance relative to the units onboard AEHF. The experiment will include a collection of telemetry from the Hall thruster operating in space, as well as measurement of the thrust used on the vehicle. The resulting data will be used to validate and improve Hall thruster and environmental modeling capabilities to support both near-term operational use of Hall thrusters and next-generation higher-power Solar Electric Propulsion vehicles. These high-power systems will enable major mission cost reductions for government and commercial spacecraft, along with greater fuel economy, increased payload carrying capacity and a greater number of on-orbit maneuvers.

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