XCOR Aerospace today announced a first in aviation and space history, the firing of a full piston pump-powered rocket engine. This breakthrough is the foundation for fully reusable spacecraft that can fly multiple times per day, every day. It is a game changing technology that has the power to fundamentally alter the way we as a society view, visit, and utilize the abundant resources around our planet and in our solar system.The initial portion of XCOR’s pump test program culminated in a 67-second engine run with the propulsion system mated to the flight weight Lynx fuselage. After the installation of the flight sized liquid oxygen tank, the next test sequence will extend the engine run duration to the full powered flight duration of the Lynx Mark I suborbital vehicle.
“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 Chief Executive Officer Jeff Greason. “This is one more step toward a significant reduction in per-flight cost and turnaround time, while increasing overall flight safety.”
Boeing provided additional funding to complete the XCOR test sequence and advance low-cost rocket propulsion technology. The demonstrated results of the full pump fed engine firing for extended periods helps to ensure the technology migrates into broader global applications.
“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 Chief Operating Officer 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.”