More than half a century of powering space exploration and national security
For more than fifty years, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RL10 has been the nation’s premier upper-stage rocket engine. Evolved from a technological breakthrough in harnessing high-energy liquid hydrogen as an aerospace propulsion fuel, the RL10 has amassed one of the most remarkable lists of accomplishments in the history of space propulsion.
The RL10 has played a vital role in placing numerous military, government and commercial satellites into Earth’s orbit, and has helped send spacecraft to explore every planet in our solar system, including Voyager 1, the first spacecraft to reach interstellar space, and New Horizons, the fastest spacecraft to ever leave Earth orbit.
Today, three engines derived from the very core of the legendary RL10, the RL10A-4-2, RL10B-2 and RL10C-1 carry on the RL10’s legacy as the launch industry’s “workhorse” by powering the upper stages of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.
The RL10C-1 represents the first step toward a common core engine for the Atlas and Delta launch vehicles. This new engine model combines the best attributes of the RL10A-4-2 engine model, developed for use on the Centaur upper stage of the Atlas V launch vehicle, and the RL10B-2, which is currently used on the second stage of the Delta IV launch vehicle.
RL10 engines also are slated to help power NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that is in development to lift astronauts to deep-space destinations aboard Orion spacecraft. A single RL10 will power the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage during the first uncrewed test flight of SLS and Orion, known as Exploration Mission-1, targeted for launch in 2018. Four RL10 engines will be on the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage for SLS that will support the first crewed flight of SLS and Orion, known as Exploration Mission-2 that is targeted for launch in 2021.