Pratt to develop new upper stage rocket engine
Posted: April 12, 2001

Illustration of high-performance liquid-hydrogen-fueled RL60 rocket engine. Photo: Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney (P&W) Space Propulsion operations announced this week its plans to begin development of a full-scale engine demonstrator for a next generation high-performance liquid-hydrogen-fueled 60,000 pound-thrust-class rocket engine, designated the RL60.

"The RL60 will be the highest performing upper-stage engine in the world," stated J. Robert Bullock, program manager for the RL60 program. "The development of this new engine will help us maintain our leadership position in providing upper-stage liquid rocket propulsion and will more than double the thrust capability of our highest performing RL10 engines presently in service."

The RL60's performance increase will come in a package approximately the same size as P&W's RL10, currently the industry's workhorse upper-stage engine for Atlas, Titan and Delta launch vehicles. The new engine will offer throttling capability ranging from 50,000 to 65,000 pounds of thrust.

P&W has initiated the first phase of the development program, which includes major component fabrication and demonstration testing later this year, leading to a full-scale engine demonstrator test planned for the end of 2002. Following a successful demonstrator engine program, the RL60 could proceed into full-scale development and be ready for service by the end of 2005.

The P&W-sponsored program calls for the RL60 to be built and tested domestically with key components to be provided by three international industry strategic suppliers; Volvo Aero of Sweden, Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) of Japan and Chemical Automatics Design Bureau (CADB) of Russia. "While maintaining the company's role as designer and integrator, we will utilize the very best capability that the global industry has to offer and at the same time broaden our supplier market," said Bullock. Volvo Aero will provide a regeneratively cooled nozzle, IHI will provide the main hydrogen (fuel) turbopump, and CADB will produce the liquid oxygen (oxidizer) turbopump.

The RL60 engine is being developed to provide lift capability growth for domestic vehicles, such as Atlas and Delta, and also international launch vehicles. "We see a future market need for an engine in this thrust-class and are confident that we are the best company to provide it," said Bullock.

P&W has a proven success track record with international collaborations with the Russian built RD-180 booster engine and the RL10B-2 carbon-carbon composite nozzle produced by Snecma, in France.

Last year, P&W pursued a teaming arrangement with Snecma to jointly develop the SPW2000 engine for use on the Ariane 5 as well as future Delta and Atlas vehicles. In June, the European Space Agency decided instead to pursue its own engine program, designated Vinci.

P&W's RL60 builds on the 36-year heritage of P&W's highly successful RL10 engine. It incorporates recent technological advancements developed by P&W and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Propulsion Directorate at Edwards Air Force Base, through the Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) Program.

P&W's RL10 engine has helped launch the nation's most sophisticated earth satellites and exploratory spacecraft. The engine is manufactured at P&W's Liquid Space Propulsion facility for both government and commercial customers. The RL10 has a remarkable mission success record with more than 300 successful flights.

P&W Space Propulsion includes liquid rocket and hypersonic propulsion at Liquid Space Propulsion, located at West Palm Beach, Fla.; solid rocket propulsion at Chemical Systems Division, located at San Jose, Calif.; Russian rocket engines at RD AMROSS LLC., located at West Palm Beach, Fla.; and automated spray systems and services at Advanced Systems Technology, located at Huntsville, Ala. P&W is a unit of United Technologies Corporation of Hartford, Conn.