Booster for Pratt and Whitney

NASA has awarded a $1.2bn contract to California-based Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne for the design, development, testing and evaluation of the J-2X engine for the Ares-class rockets.



The cost-plus-award-fee contract includes ground and test flight engines.



The J-2X, managed by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was designed to power the upper stages of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles. It is an upgraded version of the Pratt and Whitney Rocketdyne’s J-2 engine, which powered the Apollo Saturn IB and Saturn V rockets, and the J-2S, a simplified version of the J-2 that was developed and tested in the early 1970s.



Ares I is an in-line, two-stage rocket designed to transport the Orion six-strong crew exploration vehicle to low Earth orbit. The first stage will consist of a single reusable solid propellant rocket booster, and the upper stage will consist of a liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen-fuelled J-2X engine and a new upper stage fuel tank.



As well as the upper stage J-2X engine, the first stage of the Ares V will have five RS-68 liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen-fuelled engines and two five-segment solid propellant rocket boosters. The heavy lift launch rocket will be used by NASA for exploration purposes, as well as to transport key components to the Moon and, in the future, Mars.



The contract is timetabled to reach completion by the end of December 2012.