PRATT & WHITNEY has successfully test-fired an RD-120 rocket engine on a test stand at the firm's Government Engines & Space Propulsion rocket test site in West Palm Beach, Florida. It was the first US test firing to be made of the flight-qualified Russian-made rocket engine.

The RD-120 is manufactured by NPO-Energomash (NPO-EM), Russia's rocket engine manufacturer. It provides upper-stage propulsion for the Russian/Ukrainian Zenit rocket. The liquid-oxygen and kerosene-fuelled rocket engine delivers 830kN (187,400lb) of thrust.

NPO-EM and P&W are forming a joint venture to modify the RD-120 for use on small Western-made launch vehicles capable of placing satellites into low-Earth orbit. The major change is the addition of a gimbal system for thrust-vector control. The power plant, designated RD-120M, will be made in Russia and Ukraine.

The test demonstrated the engine's ability to use US fuel and be integrated into a US launch vehicle. The venture's immediate hopes are to offer the engine for the X-34 re-useable small-launch vehicle being developed in the USA.

Source: Flight International