ATK and XCOR Successfully Complete Test Series
for NASA's 7,500 lbf-thrust LOX/Methane Workhorse Engine
Engine Could Run on Fuel Obtained in Space
Mojave, CA, December 12, 2007 – XCOR Aerospace and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) completed tests on a methane-burning rocket engine for NASA. This engine could help return America to the Moon and allow astronauts to tap extra-terrestrial sources of fuel. The engine work was funded by NASA's Exploration Technology Development Program at Langley, as part of the Propulsion and Cryogenics Advanced Development Project based at Glenn Research Center.
The 7,500 lbf thrust liquid oxygen (LOX)/liquid methane (LCH4) Workhorse Engine is being used to develop and refine methane rocket technology for possible use on lunar expeditions. Methane offers higher performance relative to other storable propellants, is less expensive to handle because of its lower toxicity, and is easier to store long-term than liquid hydrogen.
An additional factor that makes this propellant combination unique is the possibility that Oxygen and Methane can be obtained or manufactured from In-Situ Resources on the moon and other planets.
“XCOR is pleased to be working with ATK in the development of this new propulsion capability for NASA. Tests to date have shown very reliable and repeatable ignition characteristics and extremely stable operation,” said Jeff Greason, CEO for XCOR. The ATK/XCOR team went from program inception to the first test firing in only six months. The tests delivered critical data for NASA to assess the practicality of this new propellant combination that is intended to provide a viable option for future in-space propulsion. The regeneratively cooled design of this engine makes maximum use of the energy in the propellants and offers the highest performance potential. This test series provided data on engine ignition, startup, shutdown, nominal operation, off-nominal operation, and dynamic combustion stability.
To date, tests on the LOX/Methane rocket ignition have been performed at close to sea level static conditions at XCOR’s test facility located in Mojave, CA. Because the methane engine is projected for use in space, ATK will be conducting an additional test program at its vacuum test facility in Ronkonkoma, NY. These tests will allow evaluation of various igniter concepts and demonstrate repeatable ignition characteristics in a vacuum which simulates space conditions.
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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