Pratt & Whitney RL-10A-1

Pratt & Whitney RL-10A-1 aircraft engine at the New England Air Museum


Type:   Upper stage rocket
Weight:   297 lbs.
Power Output:   15,000 lbs. of thrust
Year:   1961
NEAM Id:   25
Location:   Military Hangar

Courtesy of Pratt & Whitney Group United Technologies Corporation

The RL-10, which served as the power plant for NASA's upper-stage Centaur space launch vehicle, was the first rocket engine to use high-energy liquid hydrogen as a fuel. It has provided precisely controlled, reliable power for lunar and planetary explorations. The RL-10 embodied numerous advanced design features, including multiple use of its fuel with the “bootstrap cycle.” The RL-10 is also capable of multiple restarts in space, which enables positioning of satellites or further escape of Earth's gravity.

Design of the RL-10 began in the fall of 1958 at the Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Florida Research and Development Center. In the first flight demonstration on November 27, 1963, a pair of RL-10s successfully boosted a Centaur space vehicle into orbit around the earth. Two months later, on January 29, 1964, a six-engine cluster of RL-10s generated 90,000 pounds of thrust to lift the first test flight of the Saturn S-IV stage, pioneering hydrogen technology on the Saturn I booster.

Source: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)

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