XCOR Reaches Milestone In Engine Development

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It's a long way from strapping a couple of nifty little rocket engines onto a Long-EZ and wowing the crowds at Oshkosh to developing new space technology for the U.S. military, but that's what the upstarts at XCOR are working on these days and what they have always intended to do (along with space-tourism development). The Mojave, Calif., company announced on Friday that it is making swift progress on a $750,000 project funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop a flight-configured prototype rocket engine propellant pump. It reached a milestone in the program, XCOR said, when it successfully operated the motor section that drives the pump to contract specifications. Both motor and pump sections are being developed as piston machines instead of the more traditional turbo-centrifugal hardware. The size of the pump is matched to XCOR's 1830 lbf thrust LOX-kerosene engine currently under development with private investment capital. Dan DeLong, XCOR's chief engineer, said the company expects to have a flight operational motor-pump assembly within the next year. The company will now focus on securing a combination of government contracts and additional private investment to continue development of a suborbital vehicle for space tourism, microgravity research and microsatellite launches. "This contract will help us to develop the rocket engines for our Xerus vehicle as well as for several potential DOD programs," XCOR spokesman Rich Pournelle said in a news release. DARPA is the central research and development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense. It manages and directs selected basic and applied research and development projects, and pursues research and technology where risk and payoff are both very high and where success may provide dramatic advances for traditional military roles and missions.