Aerojet, a GenCorp
Inc. company, recently completed hot fire test evaluations of a
full-scale Rocket Based Combined Cycle (RBCC) single thruster, demonstrating
the viability of the hydrogen peroxide/JP-7 tri-fluid injector concept. The
test, conducted at Aerojet facilities in Sacramento, Calif., marked a key
milestone in NASA’s Integrated System Test of an Air-breathing Rocket (ISTAR)

The Aerojet tri-fluid injector concept uses HTP (decomposed peroxide)
— created by a compact, Aerojet-patented, catalyst bed — injected into the
main combustion chamber through veins in the main injector for an ignition
source. Then, JP-7 fuel and liquid HTP (90 percent liquid peroxide) are
introduced and “tri-fluid” combustion is sustained. The hot fire test used HTP
and JP-7 fuel in the thruster, which culminated in nearly 300 seconds of
duration at chamber pressures that exceeded 1500 psia.

“Our goal was to develop a robust rocket thruster and accumulate hot fire
time at high power operating conditions,” said Brian Robbers, Integrated
Product Team lead for Rocket Development on the ISTAR program. “These tests
have exceeded our expectations for thruster performance and durability and
have given us important data needed to design a regeneratively cooled thrust

Aerojet is a member of the Rocket Based Combined Cycle Consortium (RBC3),
which has successfully completed several steps in a series of tests of a
full-scale rocket thruster — a crucial element of an RBCC engine system. A
total of 72 thrusters will provide rocket propulsion for an RBCC-powered
version of a Reusable, Combined Cycle Flight Demonstrator (RCCFD),
accelerating the craft to Mach 3.5 and flying to Mach 7 with pure
air-breathing ramjet and scramjet modes of operation.

The ISTAR program is developing RBCC engine technologies that could, by
the end of the decade, enable NASA to flight-test a self-powered hypersonic
flight vehicle to more than seven times the speed of sound, demonstrating all
modes of engine operation. The ISTAR program is funded by NASA’s Next
Generation Launch Technologies Program.

RBC3 combines the propulsion development skills of the Aerojet missile and
space propulsion business unit of GenCorp, Inc., of Sacramento, Calif.; the
Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power business of the Integrated Defense Systems Unit
of The Boeing Company of Canoga Park, Calif.; and the Pratt & Whitney Space
Propulsion business unit of United Technologies Corp. of West Palm Beach, Fla.

“The RBC3 continues to push technologies to achieve NASA’s hypersonic
research,” said Jeff Wall, Aerojet’s program manager on the ISTAR program.
“Aerojet, like the entire team, enthusiastically strives to meet the
challenges of developing the hypersonic propulsion capability that preserves
NASA’s role as the leader in access to space.”

Added RBC3 program manager Mike McKeon of The Boeing Company, “The testing
of this component is very important to the closing of technical gaps that will
be essential to the eventual creation of the flight engine. Aerojet is to be
congratulated on a terrific effort.”

Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader principally
serving the missile and space propulsion, and defense and armaments markets.
GenCorp Inc. is a multi-national, technology-based manufacturer with leading
positions in the automotive, aerospace, defense and pharmaceutical fine
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