Machine Design

Space plane gets big boost from NASA

NASA is loaning an RS-88 rocket engine to Rocketplane Limited, Oklahoma City, for testing in the Rocket-plane XP vehicle.

NASA is loaning an RS-88 rocket engine to Rocketplane Limited, Oklahoma City, for testing in the Rocket-plane XP vehicle. In return, the company will give NASA design, test, and operational information.

The Rocketplane XP is a four-seat, modified Lear executive jet aiming to fly about 300,000 ft high. "We hope to develop a safe, affordable, and reusable space plane by using established technologies, such as the RS-88 engine," says Rocketplane Vice President of Engineering Systems Bob Seto. The spacecraft completed a preliminary design review last March and is now in the detail design phase.

The RS-88 engine can put out 50,000 lb of thrust. It was designed and built by Boeing's former Rocketdyne Propulsion & Power unit for use on Lockheed Martin's Pad Abort demonstration vehicle. In 2003, NASA tested the RS-88 in a series of 14 hot-fire tests, resulting in 55 sec of successful engine operation. The project is part of NASA's effort to share advanced aeronautics and related technologies with the private sector.

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