March 24th, 2009 16:04 EST
XCOR Testing New Kerosene Liquid Oxygen Engine
Yesterday, XCOR continued testing the new kerosene-liquid oxygen engine that will be used on our Lynx Mark I and Mark II Suborbital Vehicles. The XR-5K18 produces between 2,500-2,900 lbf thrust. This was our 12th firing of the first engine since its initial firing in mid-December 2008.
Jeff Greason, our CEO, reports that the tests are going very well and the technical team has gradually raised the engine output to full throttle and we are now extending the duration of the burns to check the soundness of the initial design and fabrication techniques. Dan DeLong, Chief Engineer notes that there has been good incremental learning in the 12 firings and the team will continue to slowly ramp things up, making design tweaks and modifications as necessary.
The initial series of tests are performed by pressure-feeding the kerosene and liquid oxygen into the engine on an XCOR designed test stand. Later in the test program, pump fed liquid oxygen and kerosene will be used so they can be tested in the exact same configuration in which they will be used on the Lynx.
Eventually, the Lynx will be powered by four of these pump-fed engines.
The test program demonstrates the value of using fully reusable rocket engines. If something doesn`t work exactly the way we want, (and early in a test program, that is usually the case) we simply go back, modify it, and then test it again. You cannot do that quickly or inexpensively with disposable rockets that are used up in just one firing.
Currently, the engine test program covers a wide variety of performance areas, including output thrust, fuel and oxidizer flows, combustion stability and engine cooling.
Early in the test program, the cooling system is particularly important because every rocket builder has to figure out how to keep the engine from melting from the hot gases that come blasting out of its nozzle. There are many different cooling techniques used by engineers, including film cooling and ablative shielding. We at XCOR use regenerative cooling. We concentrate on the cooling system because when you get it right, it gives you a rocket engine that can be fired thousands of times without wearing out. The cooling systems we have built into rocket engines ranging in size from 15 lbf thrust to 7,500 lbf thrust have resulted in unsurpassed durability.
Jeff and Dan are fond of saying Our engines usually don`t wear out, we just retire them. " We want the 5K18 to follow in this tradition.
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