Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR1, the Rocket Engine Without a Rocket, Has Completed Assembly, and I Have a Proposal

Aerojet Rocketdyne says that they hope to get this test fired somewhere at Stennis, and because their $350 million contract was apparently not enough to cover that:

Congress in the 2021 defense bill allocated $15 million for the testing of large kerosene engines at Stennis. The funds are not specifically earmarked for the AR1. Maser said the company hopes the funds will be used to test its new engine.

I’m not sure how much more specifically earmarked they need to get, but sure.

I believe this engine should be put on display, and there’s only one rightful place for that: next to the A-3 test stand at Stennis.

A-3 was built to test the J-2X engine at altitude, but the quirk is that the construction continued even years after Constellation, the program A-3 was intended to support, was cancelled. It was completed in 2014 at a cost of—get this—$349 million.

Here’s an astoundingly poorly-aged take from Roger Wicker, the member of Congress we have to thank for A-3’s completion, from December, 2014, just days after Orion’s EFT-1 mission:

“Administrations come and go. I think it makes sense not to leave a partially constructed asset sitting there,” Wicker said this month, in an interview in a hall outside the Senate chamber. “I do believe, a decade from now, we’ll look back and see that it has been used in a very positive way.” He did not name a specific NASA program that he believed would use it.

I say let’s put these two $350 million monuments to dead-end plans together to make sure we remember just how little can be accomplished for so much money.