Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), tested its fourth RS-25 engine controller at NASA's Stennis Space Center — the engine controller is needed for the inaugural flight of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) during Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), which is slated to debut in 2019 — according to the company, SLS will be the world's most powerful and versatile rocket.
Four RS-25 main engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne provide more than two million pounds of thrust for the first stage of the SLS rocket. These are the world's most reliable rocket engines, with 14 of 16 assigned to the SLS program having previously flown on the Space Shuttle. NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne are testing the RS-25 engines to confirm they can withstand the SLS flight environment as well as certifying the new engine controllers.
New engine controllers are a central technology upgrade that these engines are receiving. These controllers weigh less, use less power and have fewer parts, but are more robust than their shuttle era counterparts and provide two times the reliability. The flight controller is the "brain" of the engine, translating the vehicle's commands into action while monitoring the health of the engine.
EM-1 is the first launch of the SLS and upgraded RS-25 engines; it is also the first integrated test of SLS and the Orion spacecraft. During the three-week mission, the Orion spacecraft will travel in a distant retrograde orbit around the moon and return safely back to Earth.
Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake noted that the SLS rocket will enable missions no other current rocket can, such as landing humans on Mars and sending large science payloads to other planets in record time. This is the rocket the nation will rely on for decades.