A rocket engine firing. A blue flame is projecting from a bell-shaped nozzle with several pipes wrapped around it. The top of the nozzle is attached to a complex collection of plumbing, with the whole assembly covered in steam and hanging from a ceiling-mounted attachment point. Various pieces of transient hardware are visible in the background.
RS-25 test firing. The bright area at the bottom of the picture is a Shock diamond
Country of originUnited States
First flightApril 12, 1981 43 years ago (STS-1)
ManufacturerRocketdyne, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Aerojet Rocketdyne
Associated LVSpace Shuttle
Space Launch System
StatusUsed on SLS after refurbishment
Liquid-fuel engine
PropellantLiquid oxygen / liquid hydrogen
Mixture ratio6.03:1
CycleFuel-rich dual-shaft staged combustion
Nozzle ratio78:1[1]
Thrust, vacuum512,300 lbf (2.279 MN)[1]
Thrust, sea-level418,000 lbf (1.86 MN)[1]
Throttle range67–109%
Thrust-to-weight ratio73.1[2]
Chamber pressure2,994 psi (20.64 MPa)[1]
Specific impulse, vacuum452.3 seconds (4.436 km/s)[1]
Specific impulse, sea-level366 seconds (3.59 km/s)[1]
Mass flow1,134.26 lb/s (514.49 kg/s)
Length168 inches (4.3 m)
Diameter96 inches (2.4 m)
Dry weight7,004 pounds (3,177 kg)[2]
NotesData is for RS-25D at 109% of rated power level.

The Aerojet Rocketdyne RS-25, also known as the Space Shuttle Main Engine (SSME),[1] is a liquid-fuel cryogenic rocket engine that was used on NASA's Space Shuttle and is used on the Space Launch System (SLS).

Designed and manufactured in the United States by Rocketdyne (later Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne and Aerojet Rocketdyne), the RS-25 burns cryogenic liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants, with each engine producing 1,859 kN (418,000 lbf) thrust at liftoff. Although RS-25 heritage traces back to the 1960s, its concerted development began in the 1970s with the first flight, STS-1, on April 12, 1981. The RS-25 has undergone upgrades over its operational history to improve the engine's reliability, safety, and maintenance load.

The engine produces a specific impulse (Isp) of 452 seconds (4.43 kN-sec/kg) in a vacuum, or 366 seconds (3.59 kN-sec/kg) at sea level, has a mass of approximately 3.5 tonnes (7,700 pounds), and is capable of throttling between 67% and 109% of its rated power level in one-percent increments. Components of the RS-25 operate at temperatures ranging from −253 to 3,300 °C (−400 to 6,000 °F).[1]

The Space Shuttle used a cluster of three RS-25 engines mounted at the stern of the orbiter, with fuel drawn from the external tank. The engines were used for propulsion throughout the spacecraft ascent, with total thrust increased by two solid rocket boosters and the orbiter's two AJ10 orbital maneuvering system engines. Following each flight, the RS-25 engines were removed from the orbiter, inspected, refurbished, and then reused on another mission.

Four RS-25 engines are installed on each Space Launch System, housed in the engine section at the base of the core stage, and expended after use. The first four Space Launch System flights use modernized and refurbished engines built for the Space Shuttle program. Subsequent flights will make use of a simplified RS-25E engine called the Production Restart, which is under testing and development.

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "RS-25 Engine". Aerojet Rocketdyne. Archived from the original on July 3, 2014.
  2. ^ a b c Wade, Mark. "SSME". Encyclopedia Astronautica. Archived from the original on December 28, 2016. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  3. ^ "Space Shuttle Main Engine" (PDF). Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 8, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2011.