Xcor tests piston pump-fed rocket engine

Washington DC
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Xcor has successfully fired its wholly piston pump-fed rocket, the first of its kind, a major milestone in the company's quest to build a reusable suborbital vehicle.

The burn lasted 67s, roughly half the planned full burn time of 150s. Previous long-duration burns have been made with kerosene, but with a different system for the liquid oxygen.

Liquid rocket engines have separate tanks for both fuel and oxidizer, necessary for creating a spark. The fuel and oxidizer are normally fed to the engine by either a turbopump or gravity. Piston pumps, often used in cars and aircraft for internal combustion engines, have never been applied to spaceflight before for a host of reasons.

"Through use of our proprietary rocket propellant piston pumps we deliver both kerosene and liquid oxygen to our rocket engines and eliminate the need for heavy, high-pressure fuel and oxidizer tanks. It also enables our propulsion system to fly multiple times per day and last for tens of thousands of flights," says XCOR Chief Executive Officer Jeff Greason. "This is one more step toward a significant reduction in per-flight cost and turnaround time, while increasing overall flight safety."