Aerojet Rocketdyne completes first AR1 rocket engine, but won’t fire test until at least ‘late 2022’

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The first AR1 rocket engine

Aerojet Rocketdyne

Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed construction of the first in its next-generation AR1 engine series, despite the lack of customer and the intention to test it for about two years.

The AR1 rocket engine is located at the company’s facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi – and its completion is one more part Lockheed Martin would get when its planned $ 4.6 billion acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne. will end in the second semester of this year.

Although Aerojet Rocketdyne has finished building the engine, it will be a few years before any possible testing begins.

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“Aerojet Rocketdyne may be able to hot-fire the AR1 engine by the end of 2022,” the company said in a statement to TBEN on Tuesday.

The company does not yet have a customer for the AR1, as in 2018 it lost to Blue Origin’s BE-4 engine in a lucrative deal to power United Launch Alliance’s upcoming Vulcan rocket. But Aerojet Rocketdyne stressed that “the AR1 engine is ideally suited to meet the market’s needs for a mid-class launcher and responsive launch capability.”

Rocket maker Firefly Aerospace is developing such a vehicle, but although the two signed a cooperation agreement in 2019, the companies have yet to reach a customer agreement. Firefly notably highlighted the AR1 as “incredibly well suited to Beta power,” which is the rocket Firefly plans to start developing next year after its Alpha rocket first launches in the coming months.

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The company confirmed to TBEN that, so far, this is the only AR1 engine.

Wall Street analysts say Lockheed Martin’s near-term benefit from the purchase of Aerojet Rocketdyne would come from the latter’s strong and growing defense activity. But Aerojet Rocketdyne would also promote the vertical integration of Lockheed Martin’s space business, which the defense giant recently highlighted as threatened by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.

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Lockheed Martin will add several key space products through Aerojet Rocketdyne. The company builds the RS-25 engine for the NASA space launch system, the RL10C-X engine for the upper stage of ULA’s Vulcan rocket, and the small spacecraft control thrusters that are used by the capsules. Starliner crew from Boeing as well as by NASA and ULA missions.

Blue Origin is testing one of the BE-4 rocket engines that the company is developing to launch its new Glenn rocket.

Blue origin | gif by @thesheetztweetz

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