A lunar-lander engine technology project has entered its second phase following 900s of successful tests of a demonstrator system. The first demonstrator for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne's 15,000lb-thrust (66kN) liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen common extensible cryogenic engine (CECE) verified a throttling capability of 11.4:1, exceeding the 10:1 target.

The first phase began in June 2005 and ended in May. The second phase will continue throttling development and investigate new injector and valve designs. "NASA wants the engine to have a TRL [technology readiness level] of 6 by calendar year 2010," says P&W Rocketdyne CECE programme manager Victor Giuliano. Achieving TRL 6 requires a prototype demonstration in a relevant environment. For a lander engine that could be operation in a vacuum.

Although full-scale development of a lunar lander is not expected to start until the next decade, NASA wants to prove human-rated engines as soon as possible because their development has a long lead time. Giuliano expects the same engine to be used for the ascent stage of the lander and for unmanned versions that would carry supplies to the lunar surface.

The CECE is also being considered as a circularisation engine for the Earth Departure Stage (EDS). This would spin the EDS and its lunar-lander payload for thermal management requirements.

Source: Flight International