Launch service provider Rocket Factory Augsburg AG has successfully tested its entire engine with staged combustion over eight seconds. The test, which was conducted in Kiruna, Sweden, represents another important milestone in the development process: The eight-second burn time with a stable combustion is regarded in the industry as proof that an engine is fully functional, reaching a thermal steady-state across all engine components.
Back in June, RFA became the first Western European company to commission a staged combustion engine with a successful two-second hot fire test. At the same time, RFA is the ninth company worldwide to have successfully tested a rocket engine with staged combustion in full scale. Staged combustion is the technological backbone of some of the world’s most successful space companies and has been limited to the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan and Ukraine. The U.S. companies SpaceX and Blue Origin were the last private companies to develop this sophisticated technology with the “Raptor” and the “BE-4” engine.
Staged combustion technology is characterized by higher efficiency and performance compared to conventional open-cycle rocket engines. The partially unburned exhaust gases from the turbopump are fed back to the main combustion chamber, avoiding the release of unburned propellant. Recycling the exhaust gases significantly increases launch vehicle efficiency while reducing launch costs and minimizing CO2 emissions from rocket launches. These special features enable RFA to offer unmatched prices and thus lead the global competition for low-cost launchers.
“The engine ran for over eight seconds, meeting all the parameters we wanted. All systems worked perfectly. We are thus continuing our successful test series and feel confirmed in our decision to develop engines with staged combustion technology in Europe as well,” said Dr. Stefan Brieschenk, the company’s Chief Operating Officer.
“Our advanced engine – along with our low-cost industrial production and our orbital stage – is one of our three key advantages. It allows us not only to reduce costs for our customers, but also to transport up to 30 percent more payload to the desired orbit,” adds Jörn Spurmann, RFA’s Chief Commercial Officer.