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Launcher awarded U.S. Space Force TACFI contract to develop its high-performance E-2 liquid rocket engine

Hawthorne, CA
May 25, 2022

Award follows Launcher’s successful test-fire demonstrating the highest performing liquid oxygen & kerosene rocket engine combustion chamber ever built in the United States

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Launcher wins Space Force contract to support engine development

HAWTHORNE, CA, May 24, 2022 – The U.S. Space Force has awarded Launcher $1.7M to further develop our E-2 engine, which we proved earlier this month at NASA Stennis Space Center to be the highest-performing liquid oxygen and kerosene rocket engine combustion chamber in the U.S.

We are grateful for the U. S. Space Force’s support to advance E-2 development and help meet the goals of the DoD by maximizing performance and payload capacity for a small launch vehicle, accelerating vehicle production, and removing both geographic and supply chain constraints for volume production. 

In the words of the U.S. Space Force: “Launcher’s high performance engine design materially 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 to deliver small satellites to orbit on dedicated small launch vehicles, which is a key capability and priority for the Space Force.”  – U.S. Space Force Memorandum, June 2021

Launcher E-2 is a closed cycle 3D-printed, high-performance liquid rocket engine in development for the Launcher Light launch vehicle, scheduled to fly in 2024. A single E-2 engine will boost Launcher Light to low Earth orbit with 150 kg of payload.

Launcher’s achievements:

  • Demonstrated the highest performance of any small launch vehicle in development worldwide
  • Demonstrated the highest performance of a liquid oxygen & kerosene liquid rocket engine combustion chamber in the U.S.
  • Demonstrated the second highest performance of a kerosene liquid rocket engine of any size, globally

Our ranking of kerosene liquid rocket engines:

* Some performance data is estimated by Launcher based on public information such as engine cycle, chamber material, nozzle shape, and plume visual appearance (SpaceX Merlin, Rocket Lab Rutherford, Virgin Orbit Newtonthree, NASA F1, Ursa Major Hadley, ABL E2, Firefly Reaver, Astra Delphi).

How Launcher achieves high performance:

The combination of these five key design decisions makes Launcher’s high-performance possible:

  1. 3D-printing single-piece copper alloy combustion chamber
  2. Use of copper alloy and liquid oxygen regenerative cooling, removing the need for film cooling of any kind on the injector or combustion chamber 
  3. Higher combustion pressure than any small launch vehicle engine, active or in development
  4. State-of-the-art coaxial swirl injector, bringing combustion efficiency above 97.5%
  5. Oxygen-rich closed-cycle engine, removing the need for extra propellant to be used for turbopump power as required by open-cycle engines

Test data evidence from one of the May 4, 2022 E-2 test fire at NASA Stennis Space Center:

How Launcher will continue to improve performance:

The only possible means of material performance improvement is to increase combustion pressure. Despite the fact that we already beat the performance of every small launch vehicle in development, worldwide, we plan to do so in future engines. All other criteria, such as mixture ratios and combustion efficiency, are already near or at the theoretical maximum.

Lower cost aviation kerosene compatibility enables lower prices for the U.S. military and other customers. 

In its successful test-fire campaign, Launcher also demonstrated the E-2 engine with Jet-A aviation kerosene and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1). We proved full functionality and similar performance using the lower cost, easier-to-source aviation Jet-A fuel. Demonstrating Jet-A fuel compatibility meets an important goal of the U.S. Space Force’s responsive launch strategy requirements.

Standard Copper Alloy reduces supply chain constraints and dependencies.

Launcher’s E-2 engine is 3D-printed in a standard industrial copper alloy (CuCrZr or C18150) that has the advantage of being low cost and readily available through a strong global supply chain compared to specialized copper alloy optimized for rocket engines.

$1.7M U.S. Space Force Contract (SBIR Phase IIB - TACFI)

Awarded on May 18, 2022, this contract provides Launcher with additional funding to advance and accelerate the development of Launcher’s E-2 engine including:

  • Full-duration testing of the E-2 turbopump in-flight configuration housings including the two-stage fuel pump at NASA Stennis Space Center.
  • Long-duration testing of the E-2 combustion chamber at NASA Stennis Space Center.

We would like to thank:

The U.S. Space Force for their ongoing support. 

Our investors for making it all possible.

Our team for their incredible skill, work, and dedication to our important mission.

Our key partners:

  • NASA Stennis Space Center and their contractors
  • AMCM for partnering with Launcher to co-develop the unprecedented M4K 3D printer–which makes it possible to print the E-2 combustion chamber in copper alloy thanks to its 1-meter tall print volume.
  • Velo3D for their Sapphire printer which enabled the 3D printing of our coaxial swirl injector and turbopump parts.

Now, we move onwards to the next step in expanding and ensuring space access availability for our U.S. Government and commercial customers.

Max Haot
Founder & CEO

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