USSF awards $1 million launch vehicle to continue development of E-2 rocket engine – Reuters
The US space force awarded Space Launcher $1.7 million to further develop the E-2 enginewhich was proven earlier this month at NASA Stennis Space Center to be the highest performing liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket engine combustor in the United States
US Space Force support advances the development of the E-2 and helps achieve the goals of the defense department (DoD) by maximizing the performance and payload capacity of a small launch vehicle, accelerating vehicle production, and removing geographic and supply chain constraints for volume production.
In the words of the US Space Force, “The launch vehicle’s high-performance engine design dramatically increases a rocket’s payload capacity by consuming less propellant while generating the same thrust. As a result, Launcher’s E-2 liquid rocket engine also has the potential to significantly reduce the price of orbiting small satellites on small, dedicated launch vehicles, which is a key capability and a priority for the Space Force.” – US Space Force memorandum, June 2021
The E-2 Launcher is a 3D-printed, closed-cycle, high-performance liquid rocket engine under development for the Light Launcher launcher, whose flight is scheduled for 2024. A single E-2 engine will power Launcher Light in LEO with 150 kg. of payload. Launcher Achievements:
- Demonstrated the highest performance of any small launcher in development worldwide
- Demonstrated the highest performance of a liquid oxygen-kerosene liquid rocket engine combustor in the United States
- Demonstrated the second highest performance of a liquid kerosene rocket engine of any size, globally
The combination of these five key design decisions makes Launcher’s high performance possible:
- 3D printed one-piece copper alloy combustion chamber
- Use of copper alloy and regenerative liquid oxygen cooling, eliminating the need for film cooling of any type on the injector or combustion chamber
- Higher combustion pressure than any small launch engine, active or in development
- State-of-the-art coaxial swirl injector, bringing combustion efficiency to over 97.5%
- Oxygen-rich closed-cycle engine, eliminating the need to use additional propellant for turbopump power, as required by open-cycle engines
Evidence of test data from one of the May 4, 2022 E-2 test firings at NASA’s Stennis Space Center:
The only possible way to improve the performance of the materials is to increase the combustion pressure. Although we have already beaten the performance of all small launchers in development in the world, we plan to do so in future engines. All other criteria, such as mixing ratios and combustion efficiency, are already close to or at the theoretical maximum. Lower cost aviation kerosene compatibility enables lower prices for the US military and other customers.
In its successful test firing campaign, Launcher also demonstrated the E-2 engine with Jet-A aviation kerosene and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1). The company has proven full functionality and similar performance using the less expensive and easier to find Jet-A aviation fuel. Demonstrating Jet-A fuel compatibility serves an important goal of the US Space Force’s reactive launch strategy requirements. Standard copper alloy reduces supply chain constraints and dependencies.
The launcher’s E-2 engine is 3D printed in an industry-standard copper alloy (CuCrZr or C18150) which has the advantage of being inexpensive and readily available through a strong global supply chain compared to a specialized copper alloy optimized for rocket motors.
The USSF award on May 18, 2022 will provide Launcher with additional funding to advance and accelerate the development of Launcher’s E-2 engine, including: