XCOR Aerospace

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Mike Massee
XCOR Aerospace
Phone (661) 824-4714 x127
Fax (661) 824-0866

Press Release
Early Company Mini-Press-Releases

July 14th, 2001

Tests continue on 400 lb thrust engine
Longer duration test firings of the 400 lb engine continued with individual runs to 95 seconds recorded. The test stand was recently rebuilt to incorporate larger propellant tanks that allow longer run time. Fuel is anhydrous isopropyl alcohol and oxidizer is liquid oxygen (LOX). The most recent series of tests cooled the nozzle and combustion chamber with only the fuel burned in the engine. Unlike the smaller, 50 lb motor, water is not added to the fuel to improve the cooling characteristics.

June 19th, 2001:

50 lb thrust regenerative cooled motor testing
XCOR started tests of a 50 lb thruster that is fully regeneratively cooled. Oxidizer is nitrous oxide and fuel is a 70/30 mixture of isopropyl alcohol and water. The motor is shown mounted to the same test stand as the earlier 15 lb thrust water cooled "briefcase motor". For this series of tests, the data acquisition system was set up to record chamber pressure, fuel and oxidizer manifold pressures, fuel feed pressures, and temperatures at several locations.

January 23rd, 2001:

Testing of new 400 lb thrust rocket engine starts

The first test series of the 400 lb thrust LOX-alcohol engine started on January 17, 2001. 
The new motor, incorporating improvements based on the experience gained from the 61 test firings of the smaller 150 lb thrust engine, reached its nominal thrust and a high efficiency.

Run number 11 of the 400 lb (1.8kN) thrust LOX-alcohol engine.


November, 2000:
Here is a photograph of the 150 lb engine running at night:

October 17th, 2000:

Paradigm Shifting Without a Clutch
Testing and Operating XCOR Rocket Engines

This is a photo of our LOX-alcohol test stand, known as the “5K stand.” It is structurally rated for 5000 lb (22kN) thrust. Currently the propellant supply and feed systems are plumbed to support rocket engines up to 500 lb thrust. Our philosophy is to test early and often. We perform tests per day, not days per test.  

Many tests on a small motor are better than no tests on a large one. The accumulation of total run time on an engine as well as high cycle time are important to get good data. “If we did not get good data, it is not a test.” As of October 10, 2000, the “briefcase motor” has accumulated 1187 ignition tests, 440 main stage runs, and over 52 minutes total run time. 

The test stand should reflect the vehicle slated for the engine so that the transition from test stand to flight vehicle is a minor one. Our stand is powered with vehicle system power (24 VDC). It is portable, and maintained in the same shop where we fabricate our hardware. 

The stand batteries are recharged with solar power. Since no full-time personnel work at our test site, and because the data acquisition system (the biggest power consumer) needs only a few hundred watts, we decided to power our test site with batteries that are recharged by a photovoltaic array. Without a fuel-burning generator (utility power is not available) we do not need air pollution permits or generator maintenance personnel.

XCOR testing and operations philosophy is not to keep test personnel 100 meters away in an armored bunker until the day the astronaut (or pilot, or passengers) has to sit next to the engine. To be reliable the engine must be safer. Safety and reliability are our most important requirements. First, make it reliable so that lots of testing can be done. After the hardware is reliable, then larger and higher performance engines are easier to develop. We have already seen the advantages of this philosophy. Lessons learned from the small “briefcase motor” were applied easily to the ten-times-larger LOX-alcohol motor that runs on the 5K test stand. 

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This is a photo of our first test fire of the new 150 lbf motor. On the second day of testing, we ran it seven times.

Development testing is more dangerous than flight operations. And sometimes we need to explore the limits to verify design margins. For these reasons, our engines are always armored during testing, usually with transparent enclosures. 

The design and analysis team is also the test team, allowing us to gain the maximum knowledge from our tests: lessons learned by test personnel are automatically incorporated by the design team. We are also able to decrease the technical and schedule risk of the next design cycle. 

June 1st, 2000:

XCOR Aerospace concludes first series of engine tests

The XCOR Aerospace rocket propulsion team today announced that they have successfully concluded their first series of tests of their proprietary oxygen-alcohol igniter for XCOR’s next generation engine – a 100 lb thruster operating on liquid oxygen and isopropanol. These changes include modifications to the main stage fuel and oxidizer injectors, as well as new stainless steel-to-copper alloy brazing techniques. Included in the igniter were product improvements based on hundreds of tests using its “briefcase motor.” XCOR expects to be running this motor before summer is out.

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Perhaps the first rocket engine to be fired in a hotel ballroom!

Also in final design are changes to the workhorse briefcase motor that will allow it to run at its full rating of 15 lbs thrust.

In late April of this year the briefcase motor was publicly demonstrated at the Space Access Society’s annual meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona. With the approval of the local fire marshal and the Holiday Inn’s management – and to the delight of the conference’s attendees – the motor was fired several times in the hotel’s conference room. “This is a real illustration of our company’s philosophy of reliability, reusability, maintainability and relative ease of operation,” said chief engineer Dan DeLong. XCOR’s president Jeff Greason agreed, adding, “We subjected this engine to a wide range of operating environments before we decided it was ready for public demonstration. We worked closely with Kern County’s and Scottsdale’s fire marshals to insure that everything we did met with their approval.” Doug Jones, test engineer, said with a smile that it was great to have hardware at the conference, instead of view-graphs. 

In early May XCOR leased Building 150 on the Mojave airport. The company hopes to be completely moved into the building by the end of June. 

Click here for more coverage of the eighth annual Access to Space event including XCOR's presence at the seminar. (This link will open a new browser window)

March 2000:

Recently, XCOR began testing a small integrated rocket engine. This engine incorporates all the elements of larger engines, and allows us to test engine improvements quickly and cheaply. 

XCOR Aerospace has so far completed over thirty fully successful test firings of this engine using nitrous oxide and propane. Development of a similar engine with oxygen and alcohol propellants is underway.

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This photograph shows an igniter run with nitrous oxide and propane propellants.

December, 1999:

In December 1999, XCOR completed development of our third generation electrical igniter. Reliable and safer ignition

is one of the challenging aspects of rocket engine design. XCOR Aerospace has so far completed over two hundred fully successful test firings of this igniter using propellant combinations of nitrous oxide/propane, and oxygen/alcohol.

This photograph shows an igniter run with nitrous oxide and propane propellants.


XCOR Aerospace is a California corporation located in Mojave, California. The company is in the business of developing and producing safer, reliable and reusable rocket-powered vehicles and propulsion systems that enable affordable access to space.



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