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XCOR EZ-Rocket

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EZ-Rocket one week after its first flight
Cockpit. Engine on-off switches on left side panel are placarded "FWD - LOUD; BACK - QUIET"

The XCOR EZ-Rocket was a test platform for the XCOR XR-4A3 rocket propulsion system. The airplane was a modified Rutan Long-EZ, with the propeller replaced by first one, then later a pair of pressure-fed regeneratively cooled liquid-fueled rocket engines and an underslung fuel tank. The engines were restartable in flight, and were contained within Kevlar armor shielding. The EZ-Rocket was registered as an experimental aircraft.

Development and history


The first flight took place on July 21, 2001, flown by test pilot Dick Rutan.[1]

On a typical flight, the EZ-Rocket took off on rockets, gained altitude for a minute or so, then switched off the rockets and glided to a dead stick landing.

The vehicle actually flew better during dead stick landings than a standard Long-EZ due to lack of drag from a stationary pusher propeller — the vehicle's aerodynamics were cleaner in spite of its belly tank. It was also lighter due to the lack of a piston engine (the rocket propulsion system was significantly lighter), so enjoyed significantly lower wing loading than a standard 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.[2]

Milestones and records

EZ-Rocket, flown by Dick Rutan, touches down at California City, California on December 3, 2005, setting a point-to-point distance record for rocket-powered, ground-launched aircraft.
  • October 8, 2000 — First firing of an XCOR Aerospace LOX-powered rocket engine.[3]
  • July 21, 2001 — First flight, flown by Dick Rutan (single-engine configuration).[3]
  • October 3, 2001 — First flight in twin-engine configuration.[3]
  • January 24, 2002 — First rocketplane inflight engine relight. Piloted by Mike Melvill.
  • June 24, 2002 — First touch-and-go of a rocket-powered aircraft (world record).[3]
  • Jul 11, 2002 — EZ-Rocket flies twice in one day. First same day rocketplane flights since 1945.
  • July 25, 2002 — EZ-Rocket first Oshkosh flight at the 2002 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh air show. First rocketplane air show flight in the United States.
  • July 27, 2002 — EZ-Rocket second Oshkosh flight at the 2002 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh air show. Second rocketplane air show flight in the United States.
  • August 26, 2005 — EZ-Rocket requalification flight after three-year retirement. Piloted by Dick Rutan.
  • August 29, 2005 — Searfoss qualification flight.
  • September 1, 2005 — Altitude validation flight to 11,546 feet. Aircraft demonstrated sufficient range to fly from Mojave to California City and back without a relight, a prerequisite for the world record flight.
  • October 9, 2005 — EZ-Rocket second and third Las Cruces flights, at Countdown to X PRIZE Cup. Third and fourth rocketplane air show flights in the United States.
  • 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, piloted by Dick Rutan.[4][5] Also first official delivery of U.S. Mail by a rocket-powered aircraft.[4] In recognition of this achievement, the FAI awarded Rutan the 2005 Louis Blériot Medal.[6]
  • 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.[4]



The Rocket Racing League aircraft currently[when?] 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.[citation needed]


Twin rocket engines
Dick Rutan standing next to the engines of the EZ-Rocket, after the official rollout flight, November 12, 2001
  • Two XR-4A3 400 lbf (1.8 kN) thrust rocket engines (non throttleable, restartable in flight)[7]
  • 20 sec 500 m takeoff roll
  • Vne = 200 kn (370 km/h)
  • climb rate = 52 m/s (10,000 ft/min)
  • maximum altitude = 11,546 ft (3,519 m) MSL
  • Fuel: isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen
  • Chamber pressure: ~ 350 psi (2.4 MPa)
  • Specific impulse: 250 seconds (2.5 km/s) to 270 seconds (2.6 km/s)[citation needed]
  • Noise: 128 dB at 10 meters[8]

See also



  1. ^ Flight Tests Of XCOR’s EZ-Rocket and Progress Toward a Microgravity and Microspacecraft Launcher
  2. ^ "Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) News". HobbySpace. Retrieved 2022-05-02.
  3. ^ a b c d "First Flights — XCOR Aerospace". Mojave Virtual Museum. Archived from the original on 2006-11-10. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
  4. ^ a b c Deaver, Bill (2005-12-22). "XCOR EZ-Rocket makes more history at CalCity". Mojave Desert News.
  5. ^ FAI Records Archived March 10, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ List of Blériot medals awarded to Dick Rutan[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "LOX-Alcohol Rocket Engine". www.xcor.com. XCOR Aerospace, Inc. Archived from the original on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2015-06-15.
  8. ^ "XCOR Aerospace: EZ-Rocket FAQ". Archived from the original on February 20, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2009.