XCOR Engineers Announce Major Breakthrough in Engine Technology

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

MOJAVE, Calif., 14 December 2015 (XCOR PR) — XCOR Director of Engineering and acting CTO Michael Valant announced today that his team has reached an important milestone in the development of the reusable 5K18 Lynx main propulsion rocket engine. His engineers were able to ‘close the loop’ of the thermodynamic system under test conditions, a key technology for the Lynx sub-orbital vehicle.

This technology includes a novel method to drive essential engine parts using waste heat from the rocket engine, thus eliminating the need for adding large, heavy compressed gas tanks to the vehicle. This propulsion system is an essential part of the Lynx “instant reusability” because it allows the vehicle to be flown multiple times per day without costly servicing of components. In addition, XCOR engine technology could be used to benefit other rocket-propelled vehicles in the same way.

Valant: “There’s still some work to do to improve the cycle efficiency before this engine, that in its basic ‘open cycle’ form has already had hundreds of successful test firings, is ready for flight, but this is a massive step forward for us in the development of this truly groundbreaking technology. I’m genuinely proud of my teams for working so painstakingly to reach this goal.”

Valant, newly appointed acting CTO, has currently 20 years of experience in rocket propulsion system design and development. Since 2006, he has worked at XCOR to design and develop various propellant systems and components, to include rocket engines, valves and pumps for kerosene and liquid oxygen to fit the design requirements for the XCOR Lynx sub-orbital vehicle main propulsion system.

XCOR Aerospace: XCOR Aerospace is based in Mojave, California. It is currently creating a Research and Development Center in Midland, Texas, and will be establishing an operational and manufacturing site at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with the assistance of Space Florida. XCOR® builds safer, more reliable and reusable rocket-powered vehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and rocket piston pumps. XCOR works with aerospace prime contractors and government customers on major propulsion systems, while also building the XCOR® Lynx®. Lynx is a piloted, two-seat, fully reusable liquid rocket-powered spaceplane that takes off and lands horizontally. The Lynx family of vehicles serves three primary missions: research and scientific missions and private spaceflight in the Lynx Mark I and Lynx Mark II, and micro satellite launch on the Lynx Mark III. Lynx production models (designated Lynx Mark II) are designed to be robust, multi-mission (research/scientific or private spaceflight) commercial vehicles capable of flying to 100+ km in altitude, up to four times per day. Lynx production models are available to customers in the free world on a wet-lease basis for their own manned space flight programs. Learn more at www.xcor.com.

XCOR Space Expeditions: XCOR Space Expeditions, a wholly owned subsidiary of XCOR Aerospace, is based in Amsterdam with a regional office for Asia in Hong Kong. XCOR Space Expeditions supports a global network of 35 independent resellers with established Lynx flight sales experience. The company’s space-focused training programs offer a variety of medical screening and specialty training missions for future XCOR Lynx flight participants. Strategic partnerships are currently active with global brands including KLM, Unilever, Luminox, Philips, Heineken and Sinomax.

  • patb2009

    A goal can be determined by observation, but why that goal is being pursued is more difficult…

  • patb2009

    improved design and manufacturing has allowed smaller turbines…

  • patb2009

    sCO2 certainly has some real advantages for ground power. The downside is it wants to run at 100 Bar and higher, which means some serious high pressure plumbing, but it’s that clever little package and you get some really nice life cycle…

    I’m less convinced it makes sense in a rocket engine, when your cold side 80 Kelvin or less, you have to watch out for freezing. Even if you can close a loop for a cycle, the starting process could be pretty hairy..I have looked at some methane based cycles and the start sequences were worrisome. I thought they could be started but it would be some serious work.

  • TomDPerkins

    CO2 seems to have a higher density and heat carrying capacity. I couldn’t guess why they went with helium.

  • Xenophage

    Exactly. An ally is an ally whether it is a democracy, dictatorship or a theocracy, all the same. That’s why term ‘free world’ is out of place/time. Better to be honest/clear/blunt: ‘available to select customers as per US government permission’