First Boeing Delta 4 rocket flight engine 'go for launch'
Posted: June 28, 2001

An RS-68 engine is test fired. Photo: Boeing
The liquid-fueled main engine that will power the first Boeing Delta 4 rocket off the launch pad next spring has completed acceptance testing, clearing the way for the powerplant's attachment to the vehicle in the factory.

The Rocketdyne RS-68 flight engine was put through three hot-fire tests at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The series was completed on June 23 with all test objectives met, Boeing says.

"This is a major milestone in the RS-68 program," said Rocketdyne Vice President and General Manager Byron Wood. "The successful completion of acceptance testing for the first RS-68 flight engine confirms that this new powerplant has moved from the drawing board to the production line. That accomplishment is a huge testament to the imagination and hard work of the people who have brought the RS-68 to reality."

The RS-68 was developed by the Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power business of The Boeing Company. The engine will be used on the first stage of all Boeing Delta 4 rockets.

The RS-68 engine is a liquid hydrogen -- liquid oxygen booster engine that generates 656,000 lbs. of thrust. It is the first new large, liquid-fueled rocket engine to enter production in the United States since Rocketdyne developed the Space Shuttle Main Engine in the late 1970s.

To date, the RS-68 program has accumulated more than 16,000 seconds of test time across the program.

With the acceptance testing now concluded, the RS-68 flight engine will undergo final system checks and then be moved to the Delta 4 assembly plant in Decatur, Alabama, where it will be mated with a Delta 4 first stage -- known as the common booster core.

The vehicle is scheduled for shipment to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in August to begin launch preparations leading to a spring liftoff.

"With successful completion of the RS-68 acceptance testing, and the first flight Delta 4 common booster core and upper stage soon to receive final acceptance, anticipation for first flight is really building up," said R. Gale Schluter, vice president and general manager of Boeing Expendable Launch Systems. "I take great pride in our entire Delta 4 EELV team in achieving these industry-first accomplishments.''

"The RS-68 team is to be congratulated for reaching this crucial goal. Literally hundreds of team members have given their best to see this moment arrive," said RS-68 program manager and division director Rick Baily. "It's been the combined effort of designers, builders and test and analysis people that have finally brought us a new engine that will soon go to work for America's space program."