A NASA contract to design, develop and test a liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen powered engine for launch vehicles has been awarded to Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR), a United Technologies Corp. company.

Speaking of the $1.2bn J-2X engine contract, Pratt & Whitney president Stephen Finger said, $quot;We are very proud to have been selected by NASA to power the return of US astronauts to the moon and beyond.$quot;

Building on the experience, legacy and foundations of the Apollo-Saturn program, the J-2X engine is powered by liquid nitrogen and liquid hydrogen and will provide 294,000lbs of thrust to power the Ares 1 and Ares v launch vehicles.

$quot;The J-2X builds on our knowledge and experience with the proven J-2 and J-2S engines, while simultaneously integrating state-of-the-art technology in order to give NASA a powerful, cost-effective, reliable engine,$quot; said Jim Maser, president PWR.

PWR, a part of Pratt & Whitney, offers a complete line of propulsion products from launch vehicles to missile defence and advanced hypersonic propulsion, used in a variety of government and commercial applications.

The contract award includes ground and test flight engines and extends through to 31st December 2012.