Jeff Greason Updates Lynx Status

XCOR CEO Jeff Greason inspects the Lynx main engine after a hotfire test while Chief Test Engineer Doug Jones looks on. (Credit: XCOR)
XCOR CEO Jeff Greason inspects the Lynx main engine after a hotfire test while Chief Test Engineer Doug Jones looks on. (Credit: XCOR)

Hi everyone.

I’m beginning to catch up on a lot of back posts from the Space Access and Planetary Defense Conferences I attended in Arizona. I was mostly Tweeting those events, so my blogging suffered a bit. I also wasn’t feeling all that well in Phoenix, so my Space Access output wasn’t up to what it was in previous conferences. I was pretty disappointed with what I was able to put out there for you all to read. Fortunately, I was feeling better by the time I got to Flagstaff.

We’ll start out with an overview of XCOR CEO Jeff Greason’s talk. Greason gave a very detailed and candid overview of progress on the Lynx suborbital space plane, which the company is hoping to get into the air late this year. He also touched upon the company’s move to Midland, the fully reusable orbital system XCOR is working on, and engine development work it is doing with United Launch Alliance.

Additional material will follow as I get caught up on my posts.

Jeff Greason Presentation at Space Access
April 13, 2013

Lynx Status

  • Lynx not done yet. No technical showstoppers, just taking longer than they planned
  • 90/10 rule on development. First 90 percent of project takes 90 percent of time, last 10 percent takes 90 percent of the time.
  • In terms of propulsion development, we’re in great shape
  • Did recent 67-second engine test with funding from Boeing
  • Aerodynamics work is done and they are very happy with it.
  • Spent about 18 months trying to deal with the yaw issue.
  • Easy to get too much roll response to yaw at subsonic speeds, but not enough in supersonic speed
  • Used wind tunnel tests to resolve the issues
  • Created two protrusions (wing fences) on the underside of the wings to improve aerodynamic control
  • Landing gear and main gear are now built except from one part on main gear being fabricated.
  • Strakes are under construction and things are going well.
  • Cockpit is now under construction.
  • Nose design has been surprisingly difficult structurally. Things clicked 3 weeks ago and going through last last round of analysis.
  • Fit checks with pressure suit in cockpit engineering model
  • Have developed a high strength but light weight frame for the doorโ€
  • Lynx Mark I allows for weight growth which will be resolved with Lynx Mark II
  • More and more nanosat customers lining up for rides to orbit. Surprised by growth in interest.
  • Intention is to fly Lynx on two-hours notice.
  • Turnaround time goal based on experience with Rocket Racer
  • Did not have billionaire investors, needed to get paid to do something first (suborbital) before going to full orbital
  • Did not see how they could develop orbital system without first figuring out how to operate at low cost in suborbital space
  • Intention is to fly Lynx on two-hours notice.
  • Florida is in line as an operational site and for production line work assuming the demand develop for Lynx serial production
  • Wanted to separate R&D people in Midland from manufacturing people.

Orbital Vehicle

  • Suborbital Lynx is technologically traceable to our plans for an orbital system, while serving various markets
  • Not going to get low operations costs buy studying, you have to actually fly.
  • Orbital vehicle conceptual problems solved, lots of work ahead, goal is $1 million per person.
  • Orbital vehicle is carrier aircraft plus two rocket powered stages that would be fully reusable
  • Orbital system would use an existing aircraft (not custom-built); both rocket-powered stages would be reusable.
  • General comment: market studies of markets that don’t exist yet are, if you’re lucky, worth the paper they’re printed on.

Midland Move

  • Decision to move to Midland driven by challenges of doing business in California
  • Spent three months trying to figure out how to put in a new bathroom โ€“ however, they would have had to bring the entire XCOR hangar up to current building codes โ€“ the building was originally a 1942 temporary Marine Corps structure.
  • Move to Midland when they get their spaceport license and after we start flying the Lynx in Mojave assuming that the current schedule for flight test and spaceport licensing holds.
  • Had actually looked at the site before Midland called.
  • Lots of manufacturing infrastructure in Midland due to oil industry

ULA Work

  • Developing new engine for ULA
  • Replacement for the RL-10 engine used on Delta IV and Atlas V
  • Work is going very well

  • Phillip Bendix

    Thanks for the update!

  • Leif Arndorff

    A great thanks from Sweden for the update.

  • Nickolai

    Is that a type on the 90/10 rule or is he being facetious?

  • I think it’s a management saying.

  • I think it’s a management saying.

  • Nickolai

    I’ve heard the one “The last 20% of the work takes 80% of the effort”, I’ve never heard one where the time adds up to over 100%!

  • Yeah, this was the first time I’d heard 90/10, too. Whatever its origin, it’s a pretty good description for what XCOR is dealing with as it puts the first Lynx together.

  • 90/10+10/90 is how I’ve heard it many times before, even before I moved to California. Of course it adds up to more than 100, because schedules always slip. From my perspective, it does look like we will fly in around six months. Since my hair went gray on the Ez-Rocket and got thin on the X-Racer, now I’m sorta resigned to going bald ๐Ÿ™‚

  • It is a programming term. I have used it for decades. Never fails that the last 10% causes the grief.

  • Henry Vanderbilt

    Doug, the good news is it’s a diminishing-returns thing – you lose less hair each time through the grind. Besides, us handsome-devil mature types look good regardless of how much hair might be left!

    Seriously, there’s a reason why the last 10% of the project takes the second 90% of the time in complex advanced engineering. It’s because in every such project, a few tasks will inevitably turn out massively harder and longer and more fiddly than you’d hoped when you were making those optimistic gannt charts back at the start.

    On the early-days gannt charts, those tasks looked just like any other 10% of the project. In the real world, they accumulated as you checked off the easy tasks, and at some point you realize that the remaining “10%” of your “90% complete” project has metastasized into its second half.

    It’s all actually fairly predictable, but if we weren’t incurable optimists we wouldn’t ever get started on such projects in the first place. (Even if we didn’t scare away the investors with realistic projections, we’d cause ourselves to decide to go do something easier instead. Like, say, setting our hair on fire and running screaming into the hills, as being both less painful and over with quicker ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • You’ve led a sheltered existence, Doug.

  • If by sheltered you mean I haven’t spent my entire adult life around programmers and engineers, that would be correct. I, however, have another word for such an existence:



  • Sanity is overrated. “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him… The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself… All progress depends on the unreasonable man.” -George Bernard Shaw