Headlines > News > Airlaunch completes two more test fires on vertical test stand

Airlaunch completes two more test fires on vertical test stand

Published by Ekkehard on Sat Apr 7, 2007 7:11 am
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Kirkland, Washington (April 3, 2007) – AirLaunch LLC has conducted two more test firings of the flight-weight Integrated Stage Two (IS2) of its QuickReach™ Small Launch Vehicle (SLV). The two firings were performed in one week, for 40 seconds on March 19 and for 71 seconds on
March 23. The test firings are part of Milestone 6 of the company’s Phase 2B DARPA/Air Force Falcon SLV activity.

“All firings have used AirLaunch’s innovative vapor pressurization (VaPak) propulsion system employing liquid oxygen (LOX) and propane,” said Gary C. Hudson, AirLaunch’s chief executive officer. “The IS2 firings signal the beginning of the process to validate the QuickReach™ propulsion system, the ground propellant loading operations, and flight-type avionics, software and systems.”

The test fires utilized an updated, flight-like injector design and will lead to further analysis of the functionality of AirLaunch’s VaPak propulsion system for space launch applications. During the March 23 test, the engine successfully transitioned from liquid oxygen to gaseous oxygen. This transition has now been accomplished on the VTS as well as on the Horizontal Test Stand (HTS) used in earlier tests.

VTS testing to date has consisted of four hot fires, totaling approximately 123 seconds, as well as several loading and conditioning tests. Previously AirLaunch completed 34 VaPak hot fire tests on the HTS, totaling 282.5 seconds of burn time, and several cold flow tests.

“We are preparing to conduct a full duration burn of approximately 230 seconds of the IS2 this month,” said Debra Facktor Lepore, AirLaunch president. “A Go/No-Go decision into Phase 2C is expected to be made by the government after the full duration burn and the initial assessment of VaPak data are completed.”

The Phase 2C plans call for additional propulsion activities and safety mitigation, including the design and development of the onboard propellant conditioning system. Phase 2C culminates in a full critical design review, after which a Go/No Go decision is expected for Phase 2D. Phase 2D incorporates first stage engine testing as well as the final safety elements, including approvals by the appropriate safety review and flight readiness review boards prior to a first test flight.

The Falcon SLV program goal is to develop an SLV that can launch 1,000 pounds to orbit for less than $5 million with less than 24 hours notice. AirLaunch’s design achieves responsiveness by carrying its QuickReach™ booster to altitude inside the cargo bay of an unmodified C-17A or other large cargo aircraft. QuickReach™ is designed to meet the needs of Operationally Responsive Space (ORS).

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