Press Release

Marshall Center’s Fastrac engine team wins technology award

By SpaceRef Editor
May 18, 2000
Filed under

Contact: June Malone
Media Relations Department
(256) 544-0034
june.malone@msfc.nasa.gov


RELEASE: 00-163


The team of engineers who designed and developed the new
Fastrac rocket engine that will be used for the first powered
flight of NASA’s X-34 technology demonstrator is being
honored for helping NASA achieve its goal of low-cost access
to space.


On May 18, NASA’s Office of Aerospace Technology will
present the Fastrac engine team at NASA’s Marshall Space
Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., with an award for developing
technology aimed at reducing the cost to launch a pound of
payload from $10,000 to $1,000 by 2010.


The award will be presented at the “Turning Goals Into Reality”
conference in Huntsville. The conference, May 18-19 at the
Marshall Center, will focus on recent aerospace
accomplishments by NASA and its industry partners, and
consider the future of air and space transportation technology.


Fastrac is a 60,000-pound-thrust engine fueled by a mixture of
liquid oxygen and kerosene. It’s less expensive than similar
engines because of an innovative design approach that uses
commercial, off-the-shelf parts and fewer of them. Common
manufacturing methods are used, so building the engine is
relatively easy and not as labor-intensive as manufacturing
typical rocket engines. Each Fastrac engine will initially cost
approximately $1.2 million — about one-fourth the cost of
similar engines.


“The Fastrac team challenged and reinvented the traditional
design process used for engine development,” said Dr. Row
Rogacki, director of the Space Transportation Directorate at
the Marshall Center. “Engineering and test activities have been
streamlined. State-of-the-art modeling and analysis techniques
and crisp, effective communication enhanced the design and
development of the Fastrac engine.”


As the first engine developed in house by engineers at the
Marshall Center, Fastrac leapt from the drawing board to
full-engine testing in less than three years — a much faster than
usual design cycle for rocket engines.


Full-engine, hot-fire testing began in March 1999 at NASA’s
Stennis Space Center, Miss. In May 1999, the complete engine
system was tested for the first time at full power for 150
seconds, the length of time it will be required to perform during
an X-34 flight. System level testing is being conducted now at
Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Ventura County, Calif., while
component testing continues at the Marshall Center.


NASA’s industry team for design, development and
manufacture of the Fastrac engine includes Summa Technology
Inc. of Huntsville, which builds components such as the gas
generator, propellant lines, ducts and brackets and assembles
the engines; Allied Signal Inc. of Tempe, Ariz., and Marotta
Scientific Controls Inc. of Montville, N.J., which supply valves;
Barber-Nichols Inc.of Arvada, Colo., which builds the
turbopump; and Thiokol Propulsion, a division of Cordant
Technologies Inc. of Salt Lake City, Utah, which builds the
chamber nozzle.

SpaceRef staff editor.