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Aerojet, Teledyne Brown Form Propulsion Alliance

Teledyne Brown Engineering and Aerojet General Corp. have banded together to develop liquid-fueled rocket engines and pursue contract awards with NASA for work on a government-owned heavy-lift rocket.

The partnership “creates a strong, unchallengeable offering to customers,” Rex Geveden, president of Teledyne Brown, said in a June 3 statement.

“We’ve been talking with NASA about doing some liquid boosters with kerosene engines for the [SLS] heavy launch vehicle,” Geveden said in a June 3 phone interview. “Aerojet has a history there with their AJ26 engine.”

In a brief telephone interview, Julie Van Kleeck, Aerojet’s vice president of space and launch systems, declined to provide details about the type of work the company would do with Teledyne Brown.

Propulsion-systems maker Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif., has been angling for work on NASA’s congressionally mandated heavy-lifter since U.S. President Barack Obama pulled the plug on the Constellation program and the Ares family of rockets last year. Teledyne Brown, Huntsville, Ala., specializes in space-systems engineering support services and manufacturing.

The 2010 NASA Authorization Act obligates the agency to build a Space Launch System (SLS) — a heavy-lift rocket that eventually would support manned missions to deep space. An SLS design floated by NASA to Congress in January included a liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen core stage.

Neither Aerojet nor Teledyne Brown had a major role in NASA’s last rocket-development program, the now-canceled Ares 1. Under Constellation, Ares 1 technology was to be adapted for use in a heavy-lift launch vehicle called Ares 5. In directing NASA to build the SLS, lawmakers specified a vehicle similar in capability to the Ares 5. Legislators also directed NASA to use, whenever possible, leftover Constellation contracts and space shuttle infrastructure to develop SLS.

Aerojet has been outspoken about its desire to compete for work already contracted to its competitors Alliant Techsystems (ATK) and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. ATK, Minneapolis, and Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Canoga Park, Calif., both got contracts in 2007 to build propulsion systems for Ares 1.

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