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MILESTONE: Launcher’s 3D-Printed E-2 Rocket Engine Achieves Full Thrust at NASA Stennis Space Center

NASA Stennis Space Center
April 25, 2022

On Thursday April 21, 2022, Launcher’s E-2 liquid rocket engine successfully demonstrated nominal thrust, pressure and oxidizer/fuel mixture ratio for the first time in a test fire at NASA Stennis Space Center.

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

Data from Thursday’s successful test fire of the E-2 engine:

  • 10 metric tons of thrust (22,046 lbf).
  • 100 bar (1,450 psi) of combustion pressure.
  • Highest performance 2.62 propellant mixture ratio for LOX/Kerosene at 100 bar of pressure.
Launcher E-2 thrust chamber assembly on its test stand at NASA Stennis Space Center. (Credit: Launcher/John Kraus Photography)

E-2’s chamber is uniquely liquid oxygen cooled and 3D-printed in copper alloy in a single piece. It also uses industrial supply chain copper chromium zirconium alloy (CuCrZr), reducing costs and supply chain constraints compared to aerospace-grade copper alloy typically used in 3D-printed combustion chambers.

Launcher is the first small launch company to use 3D-printed copper alloy, and leads in small launch 3D-printed technology with its development of the first large format (100 x 45 x 45 cm) custom 3D printer in partnership with AMCM. Launcher's single-part copper alloy combustion chamber is produced on an AMCM M4K 3D printer.

In addition, E-2's state of the art co-axial injector is 3D-printed on a Velo3D Sapphire.

These technologies enable higher performance which translates into more payload per rocket and lower prices for Launcher customers.

Demonstrating its reusability, the chamber was in perfect condition after 40 seconds of total test fire time. Photo of actual chamber throat after tests below.

Launcher E-2 Combustion Chamber Throat was in perfect condition after the test campaign.

As a next step, Launcher tests again in early May with the same chamber and injector, lightly reworked to remove all film cooling—which increases performance. The goal is to increase C* efficiency from 90% in this test to our 98% target⁠—and perhaps see  our trademark blue Mach diamonds for this liquid oxygen/kerosene based engine, a global first.

E-2 is a closed cycle engine and its high-pressure (310 bar), high-efficiency, single-shaft turbopump development is moving forward in parallel (test video). In March 2022, Launcher successfully tested E-2's turbine and liquid oxygen pump in boost mode at 130% nominal flow. Launcher expects to demonstrate a full duration, three-minute test with the E-2 integrated turbopump in closed cycle configuration in Q4 of 2022.

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