XCOR on a Roll


XCOR's Lynx suborbital vehicle

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason gave two talks on Friday at the ISDC . The first, which dealt with the company’s business prospects, seems to have been quite upbeat. The other, a luncheon talk about the current debate in Congress over NASA’s human spaceflight plan, was decidedly less so.

Here, the good news…

The Mojave, Calif.-based space company has begun assembly work on its first Lynx test vehicle, which they expect to roll out in the middle of 2011. An external customer is funding the pump work for the suborbital spacecraft. XCOR has an agreement to fly a Lynx vehicle out of South Korea (contingent on ITAR approval). There is a new partnership with Masten Space Systems to compete for NASA missions to the moon.  And other companies are showing a lot of interest in XCOR’s engines.

Details on these developments were Tweeted by Ryan Kobrick (@RyInSpace), Jeff Foust (@jeff_foust), Donnie Lowther (@DKLowther), and the FAA’s Ken Davidian (@cswicki). Key excerpts below:

Overview & Status of Work

  • Mojave activity is looking great! Jeff Greason from XCOR says Lynx could be test flying next year. (@RyInSpace)
  • Greason: high flight rate of Lynx (4/day) allows them to fly 100s/yr even just 1 at a time; negates need to build bigger vehicle. (@jeff_foust )
  • Engines are not Jeff’s worry these days. There’s always more to do, but it’s manageable. (@cswiki)
  • Work on pumps being funded by external customer. Airframe: supersonic wind tunnel testing starting soon. CFD done. (@cswiki)
  • A lot of work with non-toxic thrusters, low O/F with Isp performance approaching hypergols. (@cswiki)
  • Subsonic wind tunnel testing done. Fuselage fab started. Cockpit pressure vessel test article done. (@cswiki)
  • Did a lot of low speed “truck tunnel” testing driving up and down the runway. (@cswiki)
  • Destructive testing coming up. Composite fab is “high-tech paper mache” and very mess. (@cswiki)
  • Lynx transition from low-G to reentry was very subtle. Human interface to RCS was changed to mimic a rate control always.(@cswiki)
  • Flight control surfaces are not fly-by-wire. Original goal was muscle-on-stick. (@cswiki)
  • The pitch control exceeded what pilot could provide, so that one is electrically controlled. (@cswiki)

Business Prospects and Cooperation

  • Lynx model is 4 flights per day. Mid2011 rollout. Good customers. Loyal investors. Excellent partners. (@cswiki)
  • A lot of customers for upper stage missions have come out of the woodwork (@cswiki)
  • Work on pumps being funded by external customer. Airframe: supersonic wind tunnel testing starting soon. CFD done. (@cswiki)
  • SKorean wet lease deal for production model and $28M of milestones. XCOR controls what % of vehicle tech goes to SK. (@cswiki)
  • Wet Lease $20M in 5 payments & 4 milestone payments with Ops & Maint contract. (@cswiki)
  • Jeff is building value network for Lynx, and Rocketship Tours is retailing the tickets. For PLs, value-added-resellers. (@cswiki)
  • Screening and training prototype set up. Pressure suits required. Working with Orbital Outfitters. (@cswiki)
  • XCOR has plans to develop an orbital vehicle. (@dklowther)