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Lynx has a tail-less design that eliminates the weight and complexity of an additional set of airfoils, but it didn’t start out that way. The original design had canards!  Now,  a single set of double-delta wings with large vertical stabilizers at each end allow for a sleek, simplified airframe that makes the Lynx the sports car of spacecraft.

In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss how our subsonic wind tunnel test program has shaped the design of Lynx, and much more.

Slosh tests for wing strakes


XCOR’s Jeff Greason and Dan Delong conduct slosh tests using water in an engineering model of a single strake fuel tank.  These slosh tests help determine where baffles are needed in each tank to control the sloshing of Lynx fuel along the strake tank walls.


 Above, center: Note the position of the fuel tanks, wing strakes, strake thrusters (RCS) and main landing gear in the Lynx cutaway.

In function, each strake contains four of  Lynx’s kerosene fuel tanks, the main landing gear for each side of the aircraft, and two reaction control thrusters that are used to maneuver the vehicle when it is outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

In the coming weeks we’ll show you more background on Lynx wing strakes, including some really cool shots and more on their geometry and function.

Flight panel


The Lynx flight panel is designed around a two-screen electronic flight instrumentation system. This system gives our pilots all the flight path and performance they require on the left screen and, on the right, all the information necessary to manage the engine and Lynx systems. Other instruments surrounding the main screens are present as backups. It is hinged around a center post and swings out for easy maintenance.

More on cockpit origins and progress in the coming weeks.

Pictured is an illustration of the final product in action at about 100 kilometers.

Tomorrow we cover slosh tests!

Stay tuned.



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The propulsion system on Lynx is supported by a steel truss that attaches to the rear firewall of the fuselage. Composite blast shields surround each engine.


In front of the engines, the truss supports all the valves, pumps, and plumbing needed to control and deliver fuel and oxidizer to the engines. In these shots, engineer Jeremy Voigt checks for small control line leaks using a stethoscope.

XCOR at CAF AIRSHO (via Terri Carroll of XCOR)

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Future astronauts visit the Lynx model at the CAF AIRSHO in Midland, Texas.

Update via Terri Carroll of XCOR, currently in Midland, Texas:

“This weekend XCOR is busy at the CAF AIRSHO in Midland, giving tours of our full-scale Lynx model and discussing XCOR plans with attendees.

We spent Saturday introducing visitors to the company and escorting children through the Lynx cockpit. About half of our visitors were surprised to learn that their local airport would soon become a space port, and kids sitting in Lynx were thrilled to find out they could one day visit the space port to watch the vehicle take off to space–and perhaps even take a trip themselves.


Blurry but still awesome: The Shockwave Jet Truck powers down the runway at the airshow. Impressive! –Via Greg Claxton of XCOR

The most frequently asked question is “when will you be here?”

We are in fact already here! We’ve hired five Midlanders already–some of whom are at our AIRSHO booth this weekend, and our presence is increasing in the community (including today!)

Visitors also asked a number of questions about XCOR jobs. Stay tuned by following XCOR on Twitter and through our jobs page, where we will continue to list new postings over the coming months.



Meet the Crew: Erik Anderson, XCOR Senior Engineer

11-12-08_flight-weight-nose-6116Bryan Campen: What are you doing in this shot, and what are you thinking?

Erik Anderson: I’m thinking, “man, that was a lot of sanding.” But what I’m doing there is finishing up the first (flight!) nose cap for Lynx, just trimming up the edge that mates with the vehicle. So I was really a lot happier than I look in that shot.

BC: What’s your title? What do you do at XCOR?

EA: Senior Engineer, so that means a little of everything: avionics, pilot interfaces, and let’s see, I’m in the electrical shop right now, and of course the ULA program. Whatever needs doing.

BC: And you were a C-130 pilot?

EA: Yep for 16 years.

BC: How many years have you been at XCOR?

EA: Three and a half. I started as the composites technician, though Senior Engineer was the title.

BC: What were you doing before XCOR?

EA: I was a Second Lieutenant in the Air Force, Delta 2 Engineer in the Delta 2 program, based in Los Angeles. Launched GPS satellites for the Air Force. I was an intern with the Aerospace Corp, the federally funded R&D center the Air Force keeps onhand. Trajectory analysis and vehicle design for advanced concepts. Sixteen years driving a Herc, of course, four operational tours in Arkansas, Japan and Alaska.

BC: Family?

EA: I have a saintly wife and two adorable kids–a girl who’s seven and a boy, nine. The boy wants to be a spaceship pilot when he grows up and the girl wants to be a princess.

We’ve got it all covered.

BC: What are you reading right now?


EA: Just finished The Martian by Andy Weir, it is an awesome book. It’s an Amazon Indie special from an author nobody heard of before now. It’s excellent, about a guy who through a complete accident is believed dead and left behind after an early Mars landing. His survival is a real challenge and it’s a very gripping story.

BC: What’s your favorite space-themed movie?

EA: Apollo 13.

BC: Ok, but what’s your favorite movie?

EA: Still Apollo 13!

BC: Do you have a favorite saying?

EA: No I really don’t. I like ‘em all. Sometimes I’ll fasten on one, then it gets overused and I move on from it.

BC: Will you fly on Lynx?

EA: [Laughter] Several times a day. You can put that down.

BC: I see you flying to and from work sometimes.

Erik on the afternoon commute

Erik in the XCOR parking lot

EA: Occasionally I commute on my Long EZ. I built it myself, it’s a Mojave-designed airplane (designed by Burt Rutan).

I started at XCOR in the composite shop on the strength of building that airplane.

Mojave is the sort of place where you can taxi-up with your resume.

Meet the Crew: Mark Peck, Mechanical Engineer

Bryan Campen: What’s your title? What are you working on right now?

Mark Peck: Mechanical Engineer. My projects are the 3N22 (RCS thruster) and the control stick mount [note: we will post on the control stick mount in the near future]. Other than that I expedite all the machine shop parts being built, and I work with about 20 different shops.

13-10-02_RCS-quick-release-mount-3021Bryan Campen: What’s happening in this shot?

Mark Peck: There will be twelve thrusters on Lynx. And once we are flying, we need to be able to rapidly remove the whole thruster module from Lynx and test it. We are plumbing the thruster in a new way to make it easy to change  between flights and for testing. We’ll be able to simply pull the thruster module for maintenance and find out what we need right on the test bench.

BC: So what’s your nickname?

MP: Dragster. I drag race.

BC: How long have you been at XCOR?

MP: About nine months, since January 2013.

BC: Background and hobbies?

MP: Drag racing was my profession before this, fishing is my hobby. My 12 year old boy was just asked to take the SAT at Duke University. Apparently he is in the top five percent of the nation for seventh-graders.

BC: Wow.

MP: Thank God he gets his smarts from his mom. [laughter]


Mark Peck with his son and daughter at the Veteran Memorial in Midland, Texas (2012)

BC: Stupid question, but do you still work on cars?

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We all three have dragster race cars, my two kids and me. I’m hoping by next season my kids and I will have our cars back together and go back racing again. We built all of our cars ourselves.

BC: What’s your favorite movie?

MP: Transformers. I always wanted to build one.

BC: What about your favorite space-themed movie?

MP: Just has to be Star Trek.

BC: Yeah but which one?

MP: The first one. I’m that old. [laughter] 001-the_motion_picture_poster

BC: What are you working on right now, this very minute? 

MP: I’m working on a dune buggy in my shop in Midland. Putting some new geometry on it to make the suspension work right (a new sand rail).

BC: Do you have a favorite saying? 

MP:  Everybody makes mistakes. It’s not the past, it’s the future that makes us who we are. That’s what shapes your character.

BC: Who said that?

MP: I did.

BC: Will you fly on Lynx? 

MP: I will, yes. In a heartbeat. Hopefully next year I’ll also go over 200 miles per hour in my 1800 horsepower dragster as well!



Meet the Crew: Derek Nye, XCOR A&P


Bryan Campen: What are you doing in this photo? What are you thinking?

Derek Nye: I think this was the first time we had the gear assembled, and I was going over and becoming more familiar with the gear. It was just introduced to me that day, and since I am an A&P and have knowledge of gear and pistons, I familiarized myself with the nose gear.

BC: What’s your title? What are your responsibilities?

DN: Composites Tech and A & P. Responsibilities include producing mockups of various parts of the Lynx, either in carbon fiber, fiberglass, or other composites materials we are interested in building for Lynx. For example I recently finished building a ladder (below) that one of our engineers designed so that we can test whether the design works or not. photo(1)

Previous responsibilities also include serving on the 5K18 red team test crew, where I had fabricated pressure lines, and maintained the Lynx engine for testing.

BC: Do you have a nickname?

DN: D-Nye (“Dee-nigh”)

BC: How many years have you been at XCOR?

DN: I’ve been here about a year and a quarter now.

BC: I hear you also like video games. What are you currently playing?

DN: Love XBOX, and my favorite  game is probably Mass Effect. A couple others: Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire.


Pictured: The Nye family on a recent evening stroll.

My wife and I have the Halo series as well, so we play that.

BC: What are you currently reading?

DN: I do a lot of audiobooks. When I  read I tend to read more nonfiction than fiction—for instance science, politics, psychology. Currently reading Free Will by Sam Harris and a book called Quiet by Susan Kane.

Quiet is about people who are naturally more introverted, and how that skillset is eroded by a more imposed cultural norm of extroversion. I’m also reading How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker, a pretty good neurology book.

BC: Favorite saying?

kingDN: “Nothing is more dangerous in all the world than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” –Martin Luther King

BC: Will you fly on Lynx?

DN: Definitely.

Meet the Crew: Geoffrey Licciardello, Test Engineer

Every few weeks we break from technical posts and run a set of short interviews on the people behind Lynx. We want to make sure you hear the story of both Lynx development and those who are Lynx, the people who design and build it every day.

Welcome to the XCOR Crew series. And send your feedback in the comments or to bryan [at] xcor [dot] com.

First up, Test Engineer Geoffrey Licciardello…

12-08-14_first-Lynx-cold-flow-7936From right to left: Geoffrey Licciardello and Jeremy Voigt during some of the first Lynx cold flow tests

Bryan Campen: So what are you up to in this shot, and what are you thinking?

Geoffrey Licciardello: This is during some of the first Lynx cold flows we ever did, well over a year ago now, if memory serves. I think we were doing LOX cold flows in prep for our first pump fed 5K18 hotfire. I don’t remember if a specific thought was going through my mind at that instant, but it was probably something along the lines of “I hope we can finish this test before midnight.”

BC: Did you finish before midnight?

GL: Yes we did, it was 9 something when we packed up that night.

BC: What’s your title, and what do you do?

GL: My title is Test Engineer. I work directly with senior engineer Mike Valant on all of our various pump programs, and my focus has been on propulsion rather than Lynx structure. I focus mostly on developing the piston pumps we use to run the 5K18 Lynx engines. I’ve also been the day-to-day engineer working on the ULA LH2 development program. It has been an incredibly exciting project.

BC: You have a nickname?
GL: Geo

BC: How many years have you been at XCOR?
GL: Three years–plus a six-month internship. I started as an intern with XCOR while at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, started full time after graduating school with a BS in Aerospace Engineering in 2010. The internship was spent mostly working on the X-Racer as ground support crew. I designed the heat exchanger for rapid helium refill on the X-Racer so that it could run seven flights in one day.

BC: On to more important things. What are your guilty pleasures and what video games are you currently playing?

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GL: I’m playing Empire: Total War. It’s a strategy game set in the 1700’s, Revolutionary War era. My guilty pleasure is reading comic books, mostly Sonic the Hedgehog comics and DreamKeepers graphic novels.

the_wayward_astronomer__ch1_by_kafelnikov-d3av70eBC: And you write?
GL: Yes, SciFi, just for fun. It’s a series titled The Wayward Astronomer and it is a big hobby of mine.

BC: What’s your favorite movie?
GL: Pulp Fiction.

BC: What’s your favorite space-themed movie?
GL: Apollo 13.

BC: What are you currently reading?
GL: Most recently it’s 1775: A Good Year for Revolution by Kevin Phillips, about the prelude and startup of the Revolutionary War.

BC: Do you have a favorite saying?
camusGL:“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” –Albert Camus

BC: Will you fly on Lynx?
GL: Absolutely. I can’t wait for the day that we get to fly. The X-Racer was so much fun, this will be ten times more so.



Schlieren photographs


Above is an image of of the Lynx supersonic wind tunnel model being photographed using the ‘schlieren’ technique. You may have seen this photo in a press release after some of our earlier supersonic wind tunnel tests.

‘But what is schlieren?’ you ask.

As it turns out, schlieren photography is the brain child of German physicist August Toepler, who in 1864 developed the technique to analyze and understand supersonic motion. “Schlieren” in German means streak “streaks.” As is visible in the image above, shock waves appear as streaks across the image emanating from the edges of the model. These streaks reveal changes in air density around our wind tunnel model, and this helps to determine where geometry changes will be needed for improved aerodynamic performance in a given environment.

A schlieren image is captured using a sharply focused collimated light that is reflected into a camera from a curved mirror on the other side of the model. Where airflow is affected by the model, the air density changes, causing the beam to refract differently in low pressure areas versus high pressure areas. Think of heat mirages during the summertime, these are an every day example of that same principle!

Next week we will take a break from the technical and introduce you to some XCOR’ians.