Spaceflight Insider

Aerojet Rocketdyne signs deal with Boeing to provide CST-100 propulsion system

Artists' concept of the Boeing CST-100 docking with the International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Artist’s concept of the Boeing CST-100 docking with the International Space Station (ISS). Image Credit: NASA

Aerojet Rocketdyne announced on Monday, Nov. 23, the signing of a contract with Boeing valued at nearly $200 million to complete the design, development, qualification, and certification production of the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 “Starliner” spacecraft service module propulsion system.

The Starliner, along with SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, was selected in September 2014 under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program’s Commercial Crew transportation Capability (CCtCap) to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

Aerojet Rocketdyne has been a subcontractor on Starliner since 2010 and will continue its work on the  service module and launch abort propulsion from prior contracts with Boeing.

“Aerojet Rocketdyne is leveraging adaptations of proven hardware and technologies to deliver an affordable reliable propulsion system that can be counted on to perform throughout the spacecraft’s mission and ensure the safety of the astronauts and success of the mission,” said Terry Lorier, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s CST-100 service module propulsion system program manager. “We are honored to play a critical role in continuing our nation’s legacy in human-rated spaceflight, as well as helping to revolutionize how our great country accesses and explores space.”

Infographic of Commercial Crew Program CST-100 Starliner spacecraft Boeing image posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Image Credit: Boeing / Beyond Earth

The CST-100 service module propulsion system will provide integrated launch abort capabilities both on the pad and during ascent and will meet all propulsion needs during nominal flight – from launch vehicle separation, docking and undocking with the ISS, and through the separation with the service module. During re-entry, capsule propulsion will be provided by monopropellant thrusters manufactured at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s facility located in Redmond, Washington.

Under the new contract, Aerojet Rocketdyne will provide seven shipsets of hardware with options for more. Each shipset will include four Launch Abort Engines (LAEs), 24 Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control (OMAC) engines, 28 Reaction Control System (RCS) engines, 164 valves, 12 tanks and more than 500 feet (152.4 m) of ducts, lines, and tubing. The four LAE’s can produce 40,000 pounds-force (177.9 kN) of thrust each to push the crew capsule out of danger in the event of a launch abort.

Boeing will assemble the hardware into the service module of the CST-100 spacecraft at the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Aerojet Rocketdyne will also provide hardware for the Qualification Test Vehicle, hot fire testing, and pad abort test at the White Sands Testing Facility in New Mexico and the orbital flight test launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The CST-100 is currently scheduled to begin delivering astronauts to the Space Station as early as 2017.

The CST-100 will be launched atop a United launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air force Station in Florida. The spacecraft can be configured to carry as many as seven astronauts or a mix of fewer astronauts and cargo. In May of this year, the CST-100 was approved for its first crewed flight.

“The propulsion systems are heavily derived from existing Aerojet Rocketdyne technology that’s been proven to be affordable and efficient, and we look forward to seeing them in action when CST-100 takes flight,” Al Little, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s chief program engineer for the CST-100 told SpaceFlight Insider.

Kennedy Space Center C3PF Boeing CST-100 Starliner NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Boeing utilizes a former Space Shuttle hangar, dubbed the C3PF, for the production of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Photo Credit: NASA


Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

Reader Comments

Looking forward to seeing the CST-100 and Atlas V in action.

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