A Closer Look at XCOR’s Piston Driven Rocket Engine

Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR Aerospace)
Lynx engine hot fire. (Credit: XCOR Aerospace)

Space News has taken a closer look at XCOR’s piston driven rocket engine technology:

With backing from United Launch Alliance (ULA), privately owned XCOR Aerospace is working on a type of piston engine for a prospective upper-stage rocket motor that is similar to what is used in cars and motorcycles.

“It’s a dramatically different kind of upper-stage engine,” said Jim Sponnick, ULA vice president of Atlas and Delta programs.

“Instead of rotating turbo-machinery, it’s basically a piston-type engine, more like in a car, except operating with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. You gain some manufacturing efficiencies. The indications are that it would be a much simpler and less expensive engine to build,” he said.

“The development is actually going well, but it’s truly a future capability,” Sponnick added. “This is something that wouldn’t be flying on the rockets until sometime in the next decade.”

The underpinning technology, however, is in line for a test drive — and operational service — far earlier than that. XCOR plans to use piston pumps in its Lynx suborbital passenger spaceships.

Read the full story.

UT El Paso Forges Commercial Partnership With Japanese University

This miniature model represents the type of vehicle UTEP will help build in partnership with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology to take customers into space. (Credit: UTEP)
This miniature model represents the type of vehicle UTEP will help build in partnership with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology to take customers into space. (Credit: Kyutech)

EL PASO, Tex. (UTEP PR) — The University of Texas at El Paso signed a cooperative and international affiliation agreement with Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology (Kyutech) on Monday, July 29 to form a new academic and research partnership. The partnership allows for faculty and student exchange, as well as collaborative research on advancing aerospace technologies.

KyuTech has been historically funded by JAXA, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency, and plans to collaborate with the NASA University Research Center (URC), and Center for Space Exploration Technology Research (cSETR) at UTEP.

“This is more than just a signing ceremony,” said Ahsan Choudhuri, Ph.D., chair and professor of mechanical engineering. “This is a long-term strategy to build this region into a commercial aerospace hub.”

He added, “There is already an interest to utilize this region for aerospace purposes, so we are going to capitalize on this dawn of commercial space exploration by placing ourselves as the strategic lead of capabilities in the area.”


NASA Completes First Internal Review of Concepts for Asteroid Redirect Mission

NASA has completed the first step toward a mission to find and capture a near-Earth asteroid, redirect it to a stable lunar orbit and send humans to study it.

In preparation for fiscal year 2014, a mission formulation review on Tuesday brought together NASA leaders from across the country to examine internal studies proposing multiple concepts and alternatives for each phase of the asteroid mission. The review assessed technical and programmatic aspects of the mission.


Space Angels Network Partners With UK Group

Oxford Harwell, United Kingdom,  30 July 2013 (SAN PR) —
Space Angels Network, LLC, an international network of seed‐ and early‐stage investors focused on aerospace‐related ventures, and the Satellite Applications Catapult, an organization supported by the UK government to help space-related businesses commercialize innovative ideas, today announced the beginning of a collaborative partnership. Through this partnership both organizations will work together to promote the continued development of a healthy start-up and investment ecosystem for commercial space entrepreneurs and investors in the UK.


GXLP Update: New Moon Express Video

Video Caption: Moon Express Inc. is a privately held early stage company that plans to offer commercial transportation and data services to and from the Moon.

Most Recent SpaceShipTwo Flight Was for Virgin Galactic Pilot Training

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off from Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off from Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

WhiteKnightTwo/SpaceShipTwo Flight Test Summaries
Via Scaled Composites

Flights:WK2 130/SS2 GF25
Date:25 July 13
SS2 Flight Time:11 min, 52 sec
SS2 Pilot:StuckySS2 CoPilot:Mackay
WK2 Flight Time:1.5 hr
WK2 Pilot:MasucciWK2 CoPilot:Kalogiannis WK2 FTE:Flynn
GS Crew:Bourgeois, Glaser, Knupp, Bassett, Jaster, Bozarth, Verderame, Prior, Cassebeer, Story, Baker, Gould, Colby, Withrow, Tighe, Siebold

SS2 Objectives:
VG pilot training

SS2 Results:
Objective achieved.

WK2 Objectives:
SS2 release mission

WK2 Results:
Objective complete.

MDA to Develop Communications System for Dream Chaser

Bruce Jackson, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Flight Research Center, briefs astronauts Rex Walheim, left, and Gregory Johnson as they evaluate Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dream Chaser landing simulation in the Cockpit Motion Facility. (Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman)
Bruce Jackson, an aerospace engineer at NASA’s Langley Flight Research Center, briefs astronauts Rex Walheim, left, and Gregory Johnson as they evaluate Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Dream Chaser landing simulation in the Cockpit Motion Facility. (Credit: NASA/David C. Bowman)

Richmond, BC – MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. , a global communications and information company, announced today that it has signed a US$1.7 million contract with Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) to develop an engineering concept solution to provide on-board communication signal processing capabilities for its Dream Chaser® crew transportation vehicle.


SpaceX Awarded Launch Contract for Canada’s RADARSAT Constellation

Hawthorne, CA (SpaceX PR) – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) was awarded a launch reservation contract with MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (MDA) to support the largest space program to date in Canada, carrying the three satellites to orbit that will make up the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM) on a Falcon 9 rocket in 2018.


Plane Crazy Saturday to Continue at Mojave Air and Space Port

mojave_tower_sunset_smPlane Crazy Saturday will continue for at least the next year at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The open house, which takes place on the third Saturday of every month, was in limbo recently due to a dispute over a $100 per event fee the airport levied to pay for security. The Mojave Transportation Museum, which sponsors the open house, had balked at paying it.

John Joyce, the publisher of the Rosamond News, has arranged for his company and five other local businesses to cover the fee for the next year. The sponsors include Karl’s Hardware, Barnett’s Carpet Cleaning, Kieffe & Sons Ford, Voyager Restaurant, and Mojave Radio Shack.

The four-hour event includes planes on the runway and a speaker who talks about aviation or space.

Orion Parachute Test Successful

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — A complicated, high-altitude test last Wednesday demonstrated NASA’s new Orion spacecraft could land safely even if one of its parachutes failed.

The 10th in a series of evaluations to check out the Orion multipurpose crew vehicle’s parachute system dropped the test capsule from a C-17 aircraft at its highest altitude yet, 35,000 feet above the Arizona desert. One of three massive main parachutes was cut away early on purpose, leaving the spacecraft to land with only two. The test at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground was the highest-altitude test of a human spacecraft parachute since NASA’s Apollo Program.


On-orbit Servicing Company Skycorp Signs Letter of Intent with Satellite Operator

skycorplogoSkycorp has signed a letter of intent with an undisclosed satellite operator for on-orbit servicing designed to extend the life of spacecraft , CEO Dennis Wingo announced at the NewSpace 2013 conference last week.

Wingo also announced the Skycorp Spacecraft Life Extension System (SLES), a servicing spacecraft designed to extend the life of a geosynchronous satellite by 10 years for one-third the cost of building and launching a replacement.

United Launch Alliance Continues Rapid Launch Rate

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)
Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

Centennial, Colo.,, July 25, 2013 (ULA PR) – During the last eight days, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) team has completed five major processing activities, including one launch, on three different launch pads at both Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida and Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.


Mitsubishi Plans Animal Experiments on XCOR Lynx Flights


The latest edition of The Lurio Report has a story on Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ plans to conduct animal experiments aboard XCOR’s Lynx suborbital spacecraft:

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) In part two of my report on NSRC-2012, I mentioned that a speaker from MHI had discussed results of biological tests performed on parabolic aircraft flights (Vol. 7, No. 5).  He’d said that a suborbital reusable vehicle company was soon expected be engaged for research that included use of an animal experiment unit. This year, XCOR was cited as that company.

While MHI is has been engaged with biological experiments on the ISS, they want to take advantage of the low cost, high flight frequency and relatively low complexity of suborbital flight for new drug research.  The experimental unit is in development to carry and provide full environmental support for up to ten mice.  Its framework was shown during a fit check on the Lynx, where it would be located in the “Payload B” position, in place of the Lynx passenger seat.

MHI plans to set up an animal life sciences lab in Midland, Texas, possibly in the same facility where XCOR will be establishing its new corporate and research headquarters.

You can subscribe to The Lurio Report here.

This Week on The Space Show

This week on The Space Show with David Livingston:

1. Monday, July 29, 2013, 2-3:30 PM PDT (5-6:30 PM EDT, 4-5:30 PM CDT): No show as I am the designated driver for a friend undergoing sedated medical tests.

2. Tuesday, July 30, 2013, 7-8:30 PM PDT (10-11:30 PM EDT, 9-10:30 PM CDT): OPEN LINES. All space and STEM calls welcome. First Time callers welcome.

3. Friday, August 2, 2013, 9:30-11 AM PDT (11:30- 1 PM CDT, 12:30PM-2:00 PM EDT): We welcome Australian space enthusiast Trent Waddington who came here for the NewSpace Conference and more. Trent will discuss the conference with us, space in Australia, and much more. Trent is also a Space Show listener and he frequently calls us or sends emails with comments/questions.

4. Sunday, 2013, 12-1:30 PM PDT (3-4:30 PM EDT, 2-3:30 PM CDT). We welcome back SARA HOWARD regarding her new Apollo and space history book, “Mischief at Michoud.”

Florida Space Development Council Revives Bumper Award

nss_logoJuly 24, 2013 (FSDC PR) — The Florida Space Development Council, a statewide chapter of the National Space Society, invites nominations for the Bumper Award, to be provided annually to individuals or organizations that have had the greatest positive impact on Florida’s space industry, or to Floridians who have had the greatest impact nationally. FSDC members and non-members are encouraged to submit 2013 nominees using a simple online form, available here. Nominations will be accepted through August 31, 2013.