Our rocket engines are built to customer specifications. Below is a selection of engines that illustrate some of our capabilities. Click on any engine class to learn more. (listed by order of thrust)
XR-3M9, 50lbf LOX/Methane Engine
The 3M9 is shown here with a 6-inch rule
In 2005 we built and tested the XR-3M9, a 50 lbf, self-pressurized LOX/methane engine with regenerative cooling and specially designed injector. The design, fabrication, and testing of this engine was initially funded entirely through private investment capital. Further engine tests were conducted as part of a Phase I SBIR contract under the Air Force Research Lab’s (AFRL’s) Propulsion Directorate at Edwards Air Force Base, and as part of development for an advanced regeneratively cooled LOX/methane engine for space applications.
XCOR built the 3M9 to be the reaction control system for its next generation vehicle, and the AFRL SBIR Phase 1 contract allowed us to validate the design models and test the engine for performance characteristics. In turn, this work enabled us to predict performance of larger engines with safer, environmentally friendly propellants and reliable, responsive operations for low cost launch vehicles, satellite maneuvering stages, and commercial sounding rockets.
This engine has four distinct advantages:
It is optimized to operate with self pressurizing propellants, which eliminate the need for either pumps or a propellant tank pressurization system. Additionally, the engine can operate with subcooled propellants.
Use of LOX/methane means that the main engines, orbital maneuvering system (OMS), and reaction control system (RCS) can all use the same propellants, which will simplify the overall system and reduce weight.
LOX/methane rocket engines show promise to provide higher performance necessary for manned moon missions. NASA, in its Exploration Systems Architecture Study (ESAS) of how to return to the Moon, recognized the importance of LOX/methane:
"...limited ground test has shown the combustion performance to be suitable for use as a propellant. LOX/LCH4 is a clean-burning propellant combination. LOX does have an extensive history as a fluid on spacecraft and as propellant on propulsion stages; however, the on-orbit operational experience for LOX systems is limited. The safe handling and safe system design aspect of LOX are well understood. LOX/methane does offer higher Isp performance compared to state-of-the-art storables (i.e.,hypergols), without the volume increase that is common with LOX/liquid hydrogen systems, which results in an overall lower vehicle mass as compared to [hypergolic] propulsion systems. A LOX/liquid methane system uses less power, on the order of 1,000 watts less power, than comparable [hypergolic] propulsion systems, thereby significantly reducing the mass of the spacecraft power system(s)." ESAS, Section 4, p. 115.
In addition to higher performance, LOX/methane engines have long term storability necessary for manned Moon or Mars missions, LOX and methane can be obtained from the Martian soil and atmosphere, and LOX can come from the lunar soil. Also, it's non-toxic nature significantly lowers operations costs, enhances crew safety, and is safer for the environment.