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Liquid hydrogen pump test ‘a success’

Rocket engine and vehicle producer XCOR Aerospace and space launch service provider United Launch Alliance have announced progress in their joint liquid hydrogen (LH2) engine development programme.

‘We have successfully operated our liquid hydrogen pump at full design flow rate and pressure conditions,’ says XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. ‘This milestone builds on our earlier success with liquid oxygen and kerosene pumps, which have powered many of our hotfires.

‘Achieving this goal allows us to proceed with integrated testing of our liquid hydrogen demonstrator engine, fed by our liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen piston pumps.’  

Conceived as a lower-cost, risk-managed programme, the XCOR LH2 engine programme is intended to produce a flight-ready cryogenic upper-stage engine in the 25,000 lbf thrust class with growth potential up to 50,000 lbf thrust or more.  When complete, it should cost less to produce and be easier to operate than competing rocket engine technologies.

‘Factors such as the extreme low temperature and small molecule size of liquid hydrogen present new technical challenges compared to liquid oxygen or kerosene,’ adds Greason. ‘Demonstrating our ability to safely pump this fluid at high flow rates and pressures, with relatively low mass is an engineering milestone that will deliver yet another line of innovation and business to XCOR.’