A landmark partnership between NASA’s Stennis Space Center and Aerojet Rocketdyne has concluded after more than two decades of testing the world’s most powerful hydrogen-fueled rocket engine.
NASA Stennis, located near Bay St. Louis, was selected in 1997 as the location to assemble and test RS-68 engines to power the Delta IV rocket. The decision paved the way for the first commercial partnership between the center and a commercial aerospace company, providing a model for future collaborations to serve NASA and all of America’s interests.
The Reimbursable Space Act Agreement signed between NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne on May 18, 1998, ushered in many milestones over the duration of the partnership. Along with assembling the engine, the company modified, maintained, and operated the B-1 Test Stand for testing of the RS-68 throughout a 25-year period as NASA Stennis became the first NASA center to lease its test facilities to a commercial company.
With the close of the agreement, Aerojet Rocketdyne has returned the test stand to NASA. Over the life of the RS-68 program, Aerojet Rocketdyne conducted 341 hot fire engine tests at NASA Stennis, recorded a total run time of 58,672 seconds, and delivered 77 flight certified production engines to power Delta IV launch vehicles. The engines have powered 44 launches, including 15 heavy launch configurations using three core vehicles and three engines.
The final Delta IV mission is scheduled for March 2024 using the last three RS-68 production engines.