XCOR Aerospace begins testing reusable space vehicle
25 July 2001
XCOR Aerospace has begun flight tests of a manned rocket aircraft, the EZ-Rocket. The first successful flight test was carried out at Mojave Airport last week. The EZ-Rocket is a modified Long-EZ aircraft, and powered by twin 400 pound thrust rocket engines designed and built by XCOR Aerospace.
The EZ-Rocket is a XCOR research and development test bed for a vehicle designed to carry tourists to suborbital spaceflight at reasonable cost. "The EZ-Rocket project has given us experience in designing and building a complete rocket propulsion system and packaging it in a vehicle." said XCOR Chief Engineer Dan DeLong. "The next step is to fine-tune the vehicle and engine for routine operations."
XCOR's test pilot is retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dick Rutan who flew around the world without refuelling in the Voyager aircraft, and has flown around the world in his own Long-EZ.
"This is the result of over six months of working with XCOR Aerospace to develop a flight test programme for the EZ-Rocket. The first runway test was a resounding success," said Lt. Col. Rutan. "After I turned on the rocket engine, the engine came smoothly to full thrust, and the aircraft rapidly accelerated to flying speed. I rotated and the aircraft lifted off and flew for a few hundred feet under rocket power. I then shut down, landed, and rolled to a stop. All the systems operated normally."
XCOR president Jeff Greason said, "The primary purpose of the EZ-Rocket is to measure and drive down the operating costs of reusable rocket vehicles. XCOR Aerospace is developing reusable rocket propulsion for commercial rocket applications where our customers require inexpensive and safe operations."
The official roll-out of the EZ-Rocket will take place in Mojave, California this fall after the early phases of the flight test programme have been completed.
The EZ-Rocket is a modified Long-EZ homebuilt aircraft. The aircraft is powered by twin 400 lb thrust regeneratively cooled rocket engines. The EZ-Rocket includes an external composite fuel tank and an insulated internal aluminum liquid oxygen tank. The modifications were carried out at XCOR Aerospace's Mojave facility in California. Tests are done at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Centre.