Aerojet - AJ10-137 Apollo Service Module EngineThe general configuration of the SPS engine was 20,000 pounds of thrust, with a chamber pressure of 100 psi and specific impulse (Isp) of 314.5. The very large nozzle had an area ratio of 62.5:1 (exit area to throat area). The propellants were nitrogen tetroxide (also known as N2O4 and nitrous oxide) and A-50. A-50 was a hydrazine family fuel. Aerojet developed it for the Titan Missile Program when they went with Titan II, to store it in the launch silos. They wanted the highest performance they could get. N2H4 was just pure hydrazine, which doesn't take low temperature very well. In fact, it freezes about like water. We started adding unsymmetrical-dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) to the hydrazine until such time as it would meet the environmental specifications the Air Force needed for Titan II. It turned out it s roughly a fifty-fifty mix. We still had to be careful with that fuel because the two fluids didn't mix very well chemically. We had to spray the two fluids through some special nozzles to get them to emulsify with each other into a single fluid. If we ever got it too cold or froze it, the hydrazine separated back out. Then, if we tried to run the engine, things could go boom in the night. The inlet pressure was only 165 pounds per square inch absolute (psia), but we needed at least forty psi pressure drop across the injector just to get some kind of stable flow. It was a whole new game for some of us. We didn't have much supply pressure to work with. It had the aluminum injector to keep the weight down. That was a couple feet in diameter, and we didn't have a lot of propellant to cool it. In fact, we had to use both propellants to keep the injector cool. There were twenty-two ring channels in the injector. Specification required 750 seconds duration, or fifty engine restarts during a flight. There were several first flight things we accomplished with the engine. It was the first ablative thrust chamber of any size to fly. (See Slide 6, Appendix G) There were no liners in it. It was just straight ablative material. It took us a while to figure that out. It was a throat-gimbaled engine, and it was the first engine to fly with columbium (also known as niobium, used as an alloying element in steels and superalloys) in the nozzle.
Boyce, Clay (NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX, United States)
August 24, 2013
November 1, 2009
Publication: Remembering the Giants: Apollo Rocket Propulsion Development