Who Needs A Spaceship? Ride A Rocketplane Into Space

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NASA said on Tuesday it will loan an RS-88 rocket engine to Rocketplane Limited, of Oklahoma City, to be tested in the company's Rocketplane XP vehicle for three years. The company will provide NASA with design, test and operational information. The Rocketplane XP is a four-seat, modified Lear executive jet aiming to reach about 300,000 feet, NASA said. "We hope to develop a safe, affordable and reusable spaceplane by integrating established technologies, such as the RS-88 engine," said Bob Seto, Rocketplane vice president of engineering systems and analysis. According to Seto, the spacecraft completed a preliminary design review in March 2005, and it is in the detail design phase. The RS-88 engine is capable of 50,000 pounds of thrust. It was designed and built by Boeing's former Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power unit for use on Lockheed Martin's Pad Abort Demonstration vehicle. In 2003, NASA tested the RS-88 in a series of 14 hot-fire tests, resulting in 55 seconds of successful engine operation. NASA said the project is part of its effort to share advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies with the private sector to use ideas and investments that can lead to new capabilities.