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Launcher Successfully Tests E-2 Engine Turbopump for the U.S. Space Force

Hawthorne, California
October 17, 2022

In a test campaign at NASA Stennis Space Center, Launcher demonstrated the highest-performance kerosene rocket engine turbopump ever manufactured in the U.S.

Photo: Launcher E-2 Liquid Rocket Engine Turbopump Assembly

HAWTHORNE, CA, October 17, 2022 – In the latest test of its E-2 rocket engine for the U.S. Space Force, Launcher demonstrated the highest performance of a kerosene rocket engine turbopump ever manufactured in the United States. The milestone follows Launcher’s successful test-fire demonstrating the highest-performing liquid oxygen & kerosene rocket engine combustion chamber ever built in the United States.

Launcher’s E-2 engine is a closed-cycle liquid rocket engine that will power its Light rocket to orbit with a single engine in its first stage. The successful E-2 turbopump tests took place in late September 2022 at NASA Stennis Space Center. The E-2 test team achieved or exceeded all power, input and output pressure, efficiency, and vibration goals over the course of 11 tests, including long duration, cavitation, and boosted flow.

Video of the 2-minute test performed on September 22, 2022

The pump assembly used Kerosene (RP-1) and liquid oxygen (LOX) as working fluids. The power for the turbine in this test campaign was high-pressure gaseous nitrogen.

This test milestone was formally approved by the U.S. Space Force as part of Launcher’s Tactical Funding Increase (TACFI) contract.

To achieve this high-performance milestone, the E-2 turbopump assembly has these specifications and innovations:

  • High pressure: With 330 bar (4,786 psi) of liquid oxygen and fuel output pressure achieved enabling E-2’s high-pressure oxidizer-rich staged combustion engine cycle.
  • Lightweight and compact: the single-shaft turbopump includes a turbine, two fuel pumps (RP-1) and a liquid oxygen pump (LOX).
  • Streamlined turbine design: Novel design achieves industry leading 72% efficiency – surpassing the typical 60% efficiency found on other rocket engine turbopump turbines. 
  • High efficiency pumps: This allows E-2 to keep its engine pre-burner at low temperature (200C), thereby lowering the cost of materials and reducing the risk of oxygen flammability, a key challenge in developing oxidizer-rich staged combustion engines. It also provides margin to achieve designed engine thrust levels. 
  • Simplified: The turbopump design eliminates the need for a kicker turbine or liquid oxygen booster pump, despite a relatively low input pressure from the rocket propellant tanks.
  • Additively manufactured at Launcher’s facility: Controls the cost and lead time of turbine, housings, rotating inducers, and impellers.

Launcher’s E-2 engine performance specification is a critical component in its commitment to build the highest-performing liquid rocket engine of any small launch vehicle worldwide. Performance is key to expanding space access by reducing the propellant needed to reach orbital speed – thus increasing the potential payload mass and revenue-generating capacity of the launch vehicle.

As part of the U.S. Space Force’s TACFI contract, Launcher’s next step in E-2 engine development will be pre-burner component testing beginning in November 2022, followed by a long-duration test of the integrated E-2 engine (thrust chamber and turbopump in a closed-cycle) in Q1 2023.

“We would like to thank the U.S. Space Force and NASA for their support of innovation and for making Launcher’s latest high-performance records possible,” said Launcher CEO Max Haot. “By achieving our turbopump milestone, Launcher is one step closer to realizing its mission to expand space access.”

Launcher is also grateful to our partners, including Velo3D, EOS, and NASA Stennis Space Center for their support and technology enabling the development of our E-2 liquid rocket engine. 

Follow us to keep up with our development of the highest-performance liquid rocket engine of any small launch vehicle flying or in development in the world.

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