The XCOR EZ-Rocket is a test platform for the XCOR rocket propulsion system. The airplane is a modified Rutan Long-EZ, with the propeller replaced by first one, then later a pair of pressure-fed regeneratively cooled liquid-fuelled rocket engines and an underslung fuel tank. The engines are restartable in flight, and are contained within Kevlar armor shielding. The EZ-Rocket is registered as an experimental aircraft.
Development and history
On a typical flight, the EZ-Rocket takes off on rockets, gains altitude for a minute or so, then switches off the rockets and glides to a deadstick landing.
The vehicle actually flies better during deadstick glide landings than a Long-EZ due to lack of drag from a stationary pusher propeller — the vehicle's aerodynamics are cleaner in spite of its belly tank. It is also lighter due to the lack of a piston engine (the rocket propulsion system is significantly lighter), so enjoys significantly lower wing loading than a stock Long-EZ.
When XCOR began flying its EZ-Rocket in 2001, the company decided to have it FAA certified as an experimental aircraft, avoiding the additional time required to seek a launch vehicle license from the Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST). Jeff Greason, a co-founder of XCOR, said on February 10, 2003 if they were starting out at that time they probably would seek an AST license due to the progress made in developing a regulatory regime for suborbitals.
Milestones and records
- October 8, 2000 - First firing of an XCOR Aerospace LOX-powered rocket engine.
- July 21, 2001 - First flight, flown by Dick Rutan (single-engine configuration).
- October 3, 2001 - First flight in twin-engine configuration.
- June 24, 2002 - First touch-and-go of a rocket-powered aircraft (world record).
- December 3, 2005 - Set the point-to-point distance record for a ground-launched, rocket-powered aircraft, flying 16 km from Mojave to California City in just under ten minutes, flown by Dick Rutan. Also first official delivery of U.S. Mail by a rocket-powered aircraft. In recognition of this achievement, the FAI awarded Rutan the 2005 Louis Blériot Medal.
- December 15, 2005 - First cross-country return flight of a rocket-powered aircraft in the United States, return flight from California City, piloted by Rick Searfoss.
- 2008: The XCOR EZ-Rocket X-Racer prototype rocketplane flew at the 2008 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh air show.
The Rocket Racing League aircraft currently in development, the Mark-III X-racer, is a design descendant of the EZ-Rocket aircraft. Although XCOR is not the developer of the rocket engine for the Mark-III, XCOR did develop the rocket engine for the Mark-I X-Racer, the first of the X-Racers to use a single rocket engine on a Velocity SE basic airframe, and the first X-Racer to utilize kerosene instead of isopropyl alcohol fuel. XCOR used both design and operational experience from the EZ-Rocket in the Mark-I rocket aircraft design.
- Two XR-4A3 400 pounds-force (1.8 kN) thrust rocket engines (non throttleable, restartable in flight)
- 20 sec 500 m takeoff roll
- Vne = 200 kt
- climb rate = 52 m/s (10,000 ft/min)
- maximum altitude = 11,546 ft MSL
- Fuel : isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen
- Chamber pressure : ~ 350 psi
- specific impulse : 250 to 270 seconds
- Noise: 128 dB at 10 meters
- Flight Tests Of XCOR’s EZ-Rocket and Progress Toward a Microgravity and Microspacecraft Launcher
- "First Flights - XCOR Aerospace". Mojave Virtual Museum. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- Deaver, Bill (2005-12-22). "XCOR EZ-Rocket makes more history at CalCity". Mojave Desert News.
- FAI Records Archived March 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
- List of Blériot medals awarded to Dick Rutan[permanent dead link]
- XCOR X-Racer, by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today, 2009-08-06, accessed 2010-04-26.
- "LOX-Alcohol Rocket Engine". www.xcor.com. XCOR Aerospace, Inc. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009.
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