THE FIRST PHASE of US testing of a flight-qualified Russian-built RD-120 rocket engine was completed on 25 October with the third and final test firing of an RD-120 by Pratt & Whitney and NPO Energomash (NPO-EM), the engine's developer.

The tests were said to confirm the reusability and durability of the RD-120, and its compatibility with P&W test processes and procedures. The engines ran perfectly, proving that the RD-120 can reliably power US-built space vehicles at a competitive price, say company officials.

The engine now powers the upper-stage of the Russian/Ukrainian Zenith rocket. The new version, designated RD-120M, will continue to be manufactured in Russia and the Ukraine. P&W will be charged with marketing the engine in the West.

Aerojet has completed the first firing of a Russian NK-33 engine regarded as a possible propulsion unit for future US expendable launch vehicles by the Aerojet-Kuznetsov joint partnership. The liquid-oxygen/kerosene, 1,510kN NK-33 was originally built for the former Soviet N1 lunar-booster programme. The N1, with a first stage consisting of 30 KN-33 engines, failed during four launches in 1969-72.

Source: Flight International