NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Summa Technology Inc. of Huntsville, Ala., signed a contract Friday, July 30, for manufacturing, operations and maintenance of the Fastrac rocket engine in support of X-34 rocket plane test flights and potential commercialization of the engine.
The 28-month competitively-awarded contract calls for Summa to build three new Fastrac flight engines for the X-34 technology demonstrator and utilize one additional flight engine already under contract.
This contract will cover engine hardware, engineering support and refurbishment for 22 planned powered flights of the X-34, which was officially rolled out in April. Total value of the contract, including options, is almost $11.3 million.
The contract also includes: engine hot-fire acceptance testing at NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Miss., logistics and spare parts, monitoring engine performance during and after test flights, post-flight engine inspection, and other tasks in support of X-34 flights.
Under a pending separate licensing agreement, the company will seek other markets for the engine beyond the X-34 program. The U.S. government would receive royalties for engines sold commercially.
"Keys to the success of this effort will be providing quality engine hardware on time, rigorous cost control, thorough certification of engine flight readiness, and the flexibility to respond to changes in a timely manner," said Jimmy Lee, manager of the Fastrac manufacturing, operations and maintenance contract for the Marshall Center.
The 60,000-pound-thrust engine was designed and developed by the Marshall Center.
There will be an initial six-month transition phase during which the Marshall Center will turn over all blueprints, test data and other material needed for Summa Technology to assume responsibility for the engineering and subcontracting roles performed by NASA engineers during the design and development program, Lee said.
The Fastrac program began in 1996. Under two earlier contracts to the Marshall Center, Summa Technology has built four development engines and now is building two flight engines.
The Fastrac engine development and flight certification program will continue in parallel with the manufacturing, operations and maintenance contract. The Marshall Center will be responsible for contract management and limited technical support as part of the new contract.
The Fastrac engine is designed to be cheaper to build and operate than existing rocket engines. The air-launched X-34 will demonstrate technologies and operations that could cut launch costs from $10,000 per pound today to $1,000 per pound. Unpowered flight tests are expected to begin this year.
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