DARPA Finishes Two-Week Evaluation of AR-22 Engine; Scott Wierzbanowski Comments

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has concluded its two-week evaluation of an RS-25 Space Shuttle Main Engine variant as part of the agency’s Experimental Spaceplane program with Boeing.

DARPA said Tuesday it coordinated with Aerojet Rocketdyne in fire testing the AR-22 engine using an aircraft-like approach.

Experimental Spaceplane Program Manager Scott Wierzbanowski said the agency aims to reduce the turnaround time of space vehicles from 24 hours to eventually deploy payloads to space on demand.

For the AR-22 evaluations, engineers analyzed the flexibility of aircraft engines and assessed the SSME variant after each test run.

The Experimental Spaceplane team also reduced the drying time of engines between tests to up to six hours, as propellants typically take weeks to dry after internally gaining water from launch missions. The program also leveraged a new main engine controller that could detect and respond to anomalies in the engine.

DARPA conducted the AR-22 tests at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

The Experimental Spaceplane initiative might be handed over to commercial organizations in the near future, Wierzbanowski noted.

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