Orbital’s Taurus 2 Engine Test Fired At NASA Stennis

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The liquid-fueled AJ-26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus 2 rocket was test fired Nov. 10 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., Orbital and NASA announced.

The test lasted 10 seconds and served as a short-duration readiness firing to verify the AJ-26 engine’s start and shutdown sequences, E-1 test stand operations and ground-test engine controls. A preliminary data review indicated that all test objectives were met, Orbital said in a Nov. 11 press release.

The test was conducted by a joint team comprised of Orbital, Aerojet and Stennis engineers. The E-1 test stand was refurbished by Stennis over the past year specifically for Orbital’s Taurus 2 program.

Orbital is buying the Taurus 2’s kerosene-fueled AJ-26 engines from Sacramento, Calif.-based Aerojet. The engines are commercial derivatives of the NK-33 engines Russia built in the late 1960s and early 1970s for its abandoned Moon program. Each engine pulled from Aerojet’s inventory in Sacramento will be acceptance tested at Stennis prior to being shipped to the Taurus 2 integration site at Wallops Flight Facility, Va., Orbital said.

Orbital expects to conduct the Taurus 2’s inaugural launch from Wallops next year between July and September.

Orbital is developing Taurus 2 with the aid of $171 million NASA awarded the Dulles, Va.-based company in February 2008 to build and demonstrate the rocket and its Cygnus unmanned cargo tug as part of the agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. In December of that year, Orbital was awarded a $1.9 billion NASA contract to fly eight resupply missions to the international space station.