NASA Marshall SFC - Huntsville
NASA has identified Luquid Oxygen (LO2/Liquid Methane (LCH4) as a potential propellant combination for future space vehicles based upon the Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS). The technology is estimated to have higher performance and lower overall systems mass compared to existing hypergolic propulsion systems. The current application considering this technology is the lunar ascent main engine (AME).
AME is anticipated to be an expendable, pressure-fed engine to provide ascent from the Moon at the completion of a 210 day lunar stay. The engine is expected to produce 5,500 lbf (24,465 N) thrust with variable inlet temperatures due to the cryogenic nature of the fuel and oxidzer. The primary technology risks include establishing reliable and robust ignition in vacuum conditions, maximizing specific impulse, developing rapid start capability for the descent abort, providing the capability for two starts and producing a total engine burn time over 500 seconds.
This paper highlights the efforts at Marshall in addressing risk reduction activities for this technology.
Download the paper (pdf) HERE.