XCOR Aerospace has successfully carried out six test firings of its new 7,500lb thrust rocket engine as part of a $3.3m subcontract the company has with Alliant Techsystems of Edina, Minnesota.
The tests support NASA's advanced development programme to obtain liquid methane rocket engine technology for future space applications.
Designated 5M15, the engine uses liquid methane and liquid oxygen as propellants. XCOR and ATK are developing the initial workhorse version of the 7,500lb/force LOX/methane engine for NASA. The engine is intended to perform space manoeuvres and return the Orion crew vehicle from Lunar orbit to Earth.
This regeneratively-cooled version of the engine will also be built and tested this year. ATK will use it as a basis for the design of the prototype version of the engine that will be closer to flight weight.
The first version of this engine uses a heat-sink throat without any cooling system.
Tests will characterise performance, and the results will be used to determine the appropriate length of the rocket engine chamber for the flight-weight version.
'This was a great first firing,' said XCOR chief executive Jeff Greason. 'Everything worked incredibly well. The crew put in long days and nights to get the engine and new test stand ready, and the results were outstanding.'