Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, announced shipment of its rocket engines destined for use on NASA's Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). When MSL is launched in the fall of 2009 aboard the Atlas V, Aerojet will provide propulsion for every phase of the mission. The Atlas V will be configured with four Aerojet solid motors to provide an additional one million pounds of thrust to the launch vehicle. The Centaur upper stage will use 12 Aerojet 6 to 9-pound thrust monopropellant hydrazine thrusters to provide roll, pitch, yaw and settling burns and eight Aerojet retro-rockets for Centaur upper stage separation.
Once the spacecraft is launched, eight Aerojet 1.0 pound thrust monopropellant hydrazine thrusters will guide the spacecraft on its nine month cruise to the red planet. Upon arrival at Mars, eight Aerojet 68-pound thrusters will stabilize the spacecraft during its entry to Mars. After deployment of a parachute, MSL will perform final descent to near the Martian surface using its eight Aerojet 700-pound thrust engines. A tether will lower the rover onto the Martian surface and the throttling engines will then fly the descent stage away from the rover, leaving the rover on pristine soil.
Aerojet has completed delivery of all spacecraft engines plus a spare of each type to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of Pasadena, Calif. Aerojet has been under contract to JPL since 2001, upgrading the Viking Lander engine, which successfully landed the two Viking spacecraft on Mars in 1976. A series of development and qualification tests demonstrated the engine's dramatic throttle range and has been used to verify that it will be suitable for the precision Mars landing. "Aerojet is proud to have provided propulsion for all of NASA's missions to Mars since Viking," said Aerojet President Scott Neish. "The upgraded throttling engines provide a unique capability for planetary landings."Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader principally serving the missile and space propulsion, defense and armaments markets. GenCorp is a leading technology-based manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems with a real estate segment that includes activities related to the entitlement, sale, and leasing of the company's excess real estate assets. Additional information about Aerojet and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies' Web sites at http://www.aerojet.com/ and http://www.gencorp.com/.