In December, XCOR Aerospace, Inc. successfully completed its first test fire of the rocket engine that will be used to power its Lynx suborbital launch vehicle to the edge of space. Today, they released some new images of the test that are sure to excite any rocket enthusiast. The new engine, called the 5K18, produces between 2500-2900 lbs of thrust by burning a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene. The engine was fired Monday, December 15th, 2008 at XCOR’s rocket test facility located at the Mojave Air and Space Port. XCOR is the company that dropped its price of a suborbital ride to the edge of space to $95,000. The Lynx will use four of the 5K18 engines to carry people or payloads 61 kilometers (37 miles) above the Earth. “Firing a new rocket engine is always an important milestone,” said XCOR COO Andrew Nelson. “It gives everyone on the team a tremendous sense of accomplishment and demonstrates to customers and investors that XCOR knows how to take new ideas and make them a reality.”
The test of the engine was performed using pressure-fed propellants whereas the final version of the engine will be fed using XCOR’s proprietary cryogenic piston pump for liquid oxygen and a similar piston pump for kerosene.
XCOR has been around for nine years, and during that time has built and flown many different engines and conducted over 3,600 hot fires of rocket engines. The 5K18 is the eleventh engine design XCOR has built and fired. All have had perfect safety records, according to XCOR, and they also have not had any lost employee time due to injury during engine operations. It has also never seen one of its engines wear out, which says a lot of the durability of their hardware.
XCOR’s experience also includes building rocket-powered vehicles. The company has already developed and safely flown two generations of rocket-powered aircraft. Overall, the firm has flown these vehicles 66 times, and XCOR alone accounts for more than half of all manned rocket-powered flights in the 21st century. The Lynx will be the company’s third rocket-powered vehicle, and the first designed for space access.
If you’ve got a spare chunk of change and are interested in a suborbital flight with XCOR, RocketShip Tours, of Phoenix, AZ, has begun sales of tickets for suborbital flights on the Lynx.