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Orbital Successfully Test Fires First Stage Rocket Engine For Taurus II Rocket At NASA's Stennis Space Center In Mississippi On November 10, 2010. (Photo: Orbital Sciences Corporation)

The E-1 stand used for the test is located in the E complex at the Stennis Space Center and was modified by Stennis over the past year to accommodate the Taurus II program’s AJ26 first-stage engine. Modifications included conversion from horizontal test orientation to vertical orientation through construction of a below-grade flame duct and the addition of subcooled liquid oxygen supply capability. Each engine pulled from Aerojet’s stock in Sacramento, CA, and subsequently modified to the AJ26 configuration, will be acceptance tested at Stennis prior to being shipped to the Taurus II integration site at Wallops Flight Facility, VA.

About the AJ26 Rocket Engine

The AJ26 is a commercial derivative of the NK-33 engine that was first developed for the Russian rocket that would have taken cosmonauts to the moon. As the world’s first oxidizer-rich, staged-combustion, oxygen/kerosene rocket engine, it achieves very high performance in a lightweight, compact package. Aerojet has been developing design modifications to make the engine suitable for commercial launchers since the mid-1990’s. Since its original development, more than 200 NK-33 engines were built and 575 engine tests conducted, totaling more than 100,000 seconds of test time.

About the Taurus II Launch Vehicle

Orbital is developing the Taurus II medium-class space launch vehicle to boost payloads into a variety of low Earth and geosynchronous transfer orbits and to Earth escape trajectories. Taurus II incorporates proven technologies from the company’s Pegasus ®, Taurus ® and Minotaur rockets, and is supported by a “best-in-class” network of suppliers from the U.S. and around the world.

The Taurus II program currently has a backlog of nine launches, beginning with the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) project, a joint research and development effort with NASA to develop a system capable of safely and reliably supplying the International Space Station (ISS) with essential cargo. Orbital is also under contract with NASA for the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program with an eight-mission, $1.9 billion agreement to deliver cargo to the ISS from 2011 through 2015.

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