The company producing the Lynx suborbital space plane has announced that it has successfully test-fired a full-piston, pump-powered rocket engine. It is hoped that similar engines can allow the Mojave, Calif.-based company to conduct multiple suborbital flights per day.
This test lasted for approximately 67 seconds. The validity of the design was tested out by having the propulsion system attached to a “flight weight” Lynx fuselage. After XCOR installs a flight-sized liquid oxygen tank, the company will test out the engine under normal flight parameters (for the Lynx Mark I version of the spacecraft).
“Through use of our proprietary rocket propellant piston pumps, we deliver both kerosene and liquid oxygen to our rocket engines and eliminate the need for heavy, high-pressure fuel and oxidizer tanks. It also enables our propulsion system to fly multiple times per day and last for tens of thousands of flights,” said XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. “This is one more step toward a significant reduction in per-flight cost and turnaround time, while increasing overall flight safety.”
Video courtesy of XCOR
This effort is being supported by The Boeing Company, which provided funding that allowed XCOR to complete the test sequence. It is hoped that these efforts will lead to less expensive rocket engine technology.
“Unlike the expensive and finicky turbopumps on today’s rocket propulsion systems, XCOR’s piston pumps are designed to be as powerful in their thrust class as turbines, but as easy to manufacture, maintain, and operate as an automotive engine,” said XCOR COO Andrew Nelson. “This is the culmination of a 12-year program to develop this unique technology. The kerosene piston pump has been successfully flight-proven during our 40-flight test program on the X-Racer aircraft. We’ll be entering another flight test program soon with Lynx, and these pumps and engines will power XCOR and the industry to the next level.”