Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Interstellar Propulsion System Officially Exits the Heliosphere

Aerojet Rocketdyne, a GenCorp (NYSE:GY) company, announced today that the hydrazine propulsion system that it originally built in collaboration with Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in the 1970s has entered interstellar space, the space between stars, aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft. The Voyager 1 spacecraft, originally launched in 1977 aboard the Titan IIIE-Centaur launch vehicle, is now 11.7 billion miles from Earth and traveling at a speed of 38,000 miles per hour.

At a press conference on Sept. 12, NASA announced that it has determined the exact date that the Voyager 1 spacecraft entered interstellar space — Aug. 25, 2012. This milestone establishes Aerojet Rocketdyne’s onboard propulsion system as the first and only interstellar propulsion system.

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s contributions to this landmark mission include not only propulsion for Voyager 1, but the engines that originally powered the Titan IIIE three-stage rocket launch from Cape Canaveral in 1977. Aerojet Rocketdyne provided the Titan’s first and second stage booster engines, along with the RL10 engines for Centaur upper stage propulsion that successfully launched the Voyager 1 probe into orbit.

Aerojet Rocketdyne was awarded its first contract for the Titan program in 1955 and supplied 50 years of propulsion to all launch vehicles in the Titan rocket family.

For both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, which launched before Voyager 1, Aerojet Rocketdyne provided four 100 lbf and four 5 lbf monopropellant hydrazine thrusters, as well as an attitude control system including the 16 0.2 lbf monopropellant hydrazine thrusters that are still in operation today. Voyager 2, boasting the longest operational propulsion system in space, also is expected to enter interstellar space. Eventually, NASA said, the Voyagers will pass other stars, coasting and drifting and being pulled by gravity. The next big encounter for Voyager 1, in approximately 40,000 years, is expected to be the dwarf star AC+79 3888 currently in the constellation of Camelopardalis.

„The tremendous success and longevity of the Voyager spacecraft is a testament to the engineering excellence of NASA, JPL and Aerojet Rocketdyne,” stated Warren M. Boley, Jr., president of Aerojet Rocketdyne.  „Our company has a very proud history of providing propulsion for the majority of NASA’s Earth, lunar, interplanetary and now interstellar spacecraft. Voyager 1’s exciting milestone demonstrates the quality and endurance of our propulsion systems as well as the innovative leadership of our talented engineers. That same vision and commitment to push beyond conventional borders helped land Curiosity on Mars and establishes Aerojet Rocketdyne as the leader in solar electric propulsion systems and other next generation space technology advancements.”

Source / Author: GenCorp