Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne has completed the initial step in certifying the RS-68A rocket engine by successfully hot-fire testing the first certification engine.

The RS-68A is an upgraded version of the RS-68, a liquid-hydrogen / liquid-oxygen booster engine for the Delta IV family of launch vehicles.

The new engine will provide 702,000lb of thrust, which is 39,000lb more than that provided by a single RS-68 engine.

During the hot-fire test the first engine burned for 190 seconds.

The firm will hot-fire test the first certification engine at least 12 times through February 2010 followed by similar series on its second certification engine in March and April.

Engine design certification review and acceptance of flight readiness are currently planned for July 2010.

The certification testing follows the development testing phase and test data will analyse engine performance, verify compliance with requirements and ensure 100% mission success.