Latest SpaceShipTwo Rocket Motor Tests

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A rocket nozzle with a round pipe in the middle of it is shown in this image of SpaceShipTwo after it completed an unpowered glide flight on Dec. 19, 2012. (Credit: Bill Deaver)

A rocket nozzle with a round pipe in the middle of it is shown in this image of SpaceShipTwo after it completed an unpowered glide flight on Dec. 19, 2012. (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Fire: 23
Date: 08 Jan 13

Objectives:
Twenty-third full scale flight design RM2 hot-fire. Continued evaluation of all systems and components:
– Pressurization
– Valve/Injector
– Fuel formulation and geometry
– Nozzle
– Structure
– Performance

Results:
All objectives completed.

Fire: 22
Date: 20 Dec 12

Objectives:
Twenty-second full scale flight design RM2 hot-fire. Continued evaluation of all systems and components:
– Pressurization
– Valve/Injector
– Fuel formulation and geometry
– Nozzle
– Structure
– Performance

Results:
All objectives complete.

Editor’s Note: Once again, Scaled is not providing any information about the lengths of the tests, which is a crucial data point. That is true for all six engine tests, including this pair, they have conducted since early November. Three of the four earlier tests were initially listed as having lasted five seconds, although those references were later scrubbed from the test summaries without explanation.

Without knowing the burn lengths, it’s difficult to discern what’s actually happening here. There’s obviously activity, and lots of it at a unusually brisk pace. They’ve done six tests in two months, and 17 tests in the previous 3.5 years. So, that would be a very positive sign.

But, beyond that….Are they testing the so-called “starter engine” that will get SpaceShipTwo into the transonic flight envelope? Or is it a new engine that is different from the previous design?

The only thing for certain is: After more than eight years of development and with SpaceShipTwo approaching its first powered tests, the status of the vehicle’s engine is somehow becoming murkier.

  • Richard R

    I have been following this intently for the past eight years, willing scaled and virgin to make progress, but I have to agree with your synopsis Doug that the increase in missing info can only cast more doubt on the actual viability of the hybrid engine. After 8 years of development it should be rock solid, reliable and testing things like ‘speeding up turn-around times’ but the evaluation list is still the same as its been for years and the “internal geometry” seams to be a real problem area. I hope it’s just us getting worried about nothing, as I really wouldn’t like to have to wait another 5 years if they have to scrap this and design a LOX replacement.

    On a personal note thanks so much for your excellent work here on this site, the content and commentary is first class.