How we roll

After topping off liquid oxygen, the Lynx propulsion test stand is wheeled into place for a cold flow test.

Lynx has been engineered from day one to be as efficient and cost effective as possible for daily, routine flight. The all-composite construction, 100% reusable engines, non-toxic liquid propellants, and piston pump technology all allow Lynx to achieve its flight objectives without the use of a carrier aircraft. This reduces the potential for failures and results in reduced overhead and turnaround time, lower cost per operation, and a safer flight.

Such efficiency and effectiveness also extends to our testing through seemingly small changes. Just about everything at XCOR is on wheels, including our test stands. With no fixed test facility we can test at our remote location in the morning, be comfortably back in the hangar the same afternoon, and working on modifications for another test the following day.

Wheels on test stands also have a positive impact on our “build a little, test a little” approach, including added effectiveness in work culture. With test stands on wheels, our people are able to operate inside the hangar and out of the elements, with all the benefits of cost, comfort and safety that entails.

Convenient access to the test stand also increases productivity. Engineers who design parts can work on the test stand alongside shop technicians, and machinists can be more involved with the integration of their parts. In our experience, everything works better, is completed faster, costs less money, and has fewer maintenance issues than more traditional organizations with less integrated teams.

Tomorrow you get to ask “what is a schlieren?” and yes, you will have an answer!

Real-time data in the bunker


Testing the rocket engine on the firewall test stand includes a number of other sub-systems. Here in the XCOR test bunker, the Lynx Electronic Flight Information System, or EFIS, displays real-time engine data on temporary panels, just as they will in the final cockpit design.

We also collect and analyze significant data after each test. This includes thermocouple data for analysis of heat and cold in the tanks, engine, pump and other parts of the thermodynamic cycle, sensor data of the pressures in each system, timing signals to sync everything, valve actuation signals, and the list continues.

After a test, XCOR team members hold an “After Action Briefing” to review what went right and what could be improved.

Safety culture at XCOR is one where everyone, from the team member on their first day on the job, to the most senior level executives are actively encouraged to speak up and ask questions, challenge assumptions, and point out where they feel something could be done better, safer, or more efficiently. Every point raised is carefully documented, analyzed and the appropriate action taken.

The bunker is a great place to be on test day. It is an opportunity to see the professionalism of the XCOR test team and the “build a little, test a little” culture on the move.

Tomorrow, a few words on test efficiency and philosophy.