A new joint venture called Pratt & Whitney – Aerojet Propulsion Associates has been awarded a two-year, $115 million NASA contract to develop booster engines in support of NASA’s Space Launch Initiative (SLI) program – the first phase in building a new space shuttle by 2010.
The joint venture is currently developing three booster engines (COBRA, RLX and AJAX) to support NASA’s 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle program, which is part of the SLI. The contract is for technology risk reduction activities relative to the COBRA and RLX booster engines. The initiative will identify the best technologies and engine(s) to achieve the safety and reliability goals required for highly reliable, low-cost reusable launch vehicles.
The joint venture between United Technology Corporation’s Pratt & Whitney Liquid Space Propulsion and Aerojet-General Corporation was formed in March 2001.The goal of the joint venture is to develop next-generation, reusable liquid booster engines for NASA and also for the US Air Force’s Phase II Integrated High Payoff Rocket Propulsion Technology (IHPRPT) program.
COBRA is a single preburner, staged, combustion hydrogen engine in the 600,000-pound thrust class. RLX is a split expander, hydrogen engine in the 300,000-pound thrust class. AJAX is a US-based single preburner, staged, combustion hydrocarbon engine.
Pratt & Whitney is leading the development of the COBRA and RLX, while Aerojet is leading the development of the AJAX.
The joint venture is contractual, meaning it provides a single contractual mechanism for customers. Pratt & Whitney is the managing partner and will provide contractual and financial staff for the joint venture. The work for any contract awarded to the joint venture will be divided between Aerojet’s and Pratt & Whitney’s separate work sites.The two companies will continue to compete separately for contracts and programs outside the joint venture.