XCOR Aerospace announced that during the test program of its 5K18 rocket engine slated to power its Lynx suborbital spacecraft, the engine demonstrated the ability to be stopped and re-started using XCOR's spark torch ignition system.
“The basic cooling design has also been completed and the engine is able to run continuously at thermal equilibrium," said Jeff Greason, XCOR CEO. "With those milestones reached, the 5K18 test program is now moving forward into a second phase of tuning and optimization, in which we will also greatly increase our cumulative run time.”
XCOR says it and "certain customers" will use data and test results from the Lynx engine program to develop a deeper understanding of operationally responsive spacelift procedures. These procedures will then be applied to future rocket powered vehicles, aiding in the development of the unique requirements of operationally responsive, high-performance manned and unmanned rocket systems. Lynx will be equipped with four 5K18 engines.
Testing of the 2500- to 2900-lb thrust 5K18 rocket engine is continuing in parallel with several other key Lynx system components, including wind tunnel testing and development of the Lynx pressure cabin at XCOR’s main facilities in Mojave, CA.
Andrew Nelson, XCOR's COO, says that the company's work on various aspects of the Lynx program will enable it "to deliver safe and truly innovative rocket propulsion technology that will one day revolutionize space access by enhancing readiness levels for flight from years to days or even hours, and driving down costs and increasing safety by orders of magnitude.”
That is not to say that XCOR is working in vacuum. For subsonic wind tunnel testing of the Lynx spacecraft, XCOR worked under a CRADA with the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. At the AFRL facilities, XCOR validated the aerodynamic design of an all-metal 1/16th-scale Lynx suborbital launch vehicle model. The CRADA allowed AFRL and XCOR to collaborate in developing the aerodynamic elements of the Lynx, which will ultimately provide valuable knowledge toward the development of future space access systems.
XCOR is also working with AFRL on several other contracts, including a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research contract to supply operational data from the Lynx, which will assist the development of operationally responsive spacecraft. The Lynx, which is being designed to safely fly to the edge of space and back multiple times a day with people or payload, is expected to make its first flight in 2010.
XCOR team members are analyzing the model and data results back at their main facilities. Because Lynx is designed to travel at supersonic (as well as subsonic) speeds, refined models of the vehicle will be built and tested in a supersonic wind tunnel later this year.