RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engine Testing CATOs


Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engine Testing CATOs

This silent footage from the development era shows tests of the RS-25 engine, used aboard the Space Shuttle, with a particular focus on failures. Some of the causes identified include a weld crack :)21), housing burn-through (2:30), coolant liner failure (4:30), duct failure (7:00), fuel injector blockage (9:57), and more.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25, also known as the Space Shuttle main engine (SSME), is a liquid-fuel cryogenic rocket engine that was used on NASA's Space Shuttle. NASA is planning to continue using the RS-25 on the Space Shuttle's successor, the Space Launch System (SLS).

The history of the RS-25 traces back to the 1960s when NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and Rocketdyne were conducting a series of studies on high-pressure engines, developed from the successful J-2 engine used on the S-II and S-IVB upper stages of the Saturn V rocket during the Apollo program. The studies were conducted under a program to upgrade the Saturn V engines, which produced a design for a 350,000 lbf (1,600 kN) upper-stage engine known as the HG-3. As funding levels for Apollo wound down the HG-3 was cancelled as well as the upgraded F-1 engines already being tested. It was the design for the HG-3 that would form the basis for the RS-25.

Designed and manufactured in the United States by Rocketdyne (later known as Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Aerojet Rocketdyne), the RS-25 burns cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, with each engine producing 1,859 kN (418,000 lbf) of thrust at liftoff. Although the RS-25 can trace its heritage back to the 1960s, concerted development of the engine began in the 1970s, with the first flight, STS-1, occurring on April 12, 1981. The RS-25 has undergone several upgrades over its operational history to improve the engine's reliability, safety, and maintenance load.

The engine produces a specific impulse (Isp) of 452 seconds (4.43 km/s) in a vacuum, or 366 seconds (3.59 km/s) at sea level, has a mass of approximately 3.5 tonnes (7,700 pounds), and is capable of throttling between 67% and 109% of its rated power level in one-percent increments. Components of the RS-25 operate at temperatures ranging from −253 to 3,300 °C (−400 to 6,000 °F).

The Space Shuttle used a cluster of three RS-25 engines mounted in the stern structure of the orbiter, with fuel being drawn from the external tank. The engines were used for propulsion during the entirety of the spacecraft's ascent, with additional thrust being provided by two solid rocket boosters and the orbiter's two AJ10 orbital maneuvering system engines. Following each flight, the RS-25 engines were removed from the orbiter, inspected, and refurbished before being reused on another mission.