Launcher to test 3D printed E-2 rocket engine at Stennis Space Center

Launcher, a small launch vehicle startup based in New York, has entered into an agreement with NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test its additively manufacturing engines. The Space Act Agreement will see Launcher use the Stennis facility’s E-1 test stand to evaluate and test fire its E-2 engine for small launch vehicles.

Launcher, which last November raised $1.5 million in funding through a U.S. Air Force Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract, has received acclaim for the development of its  E-2 rocket engine. The engine, impressively, integrates one of the largest single-component 3D printed parts out there: an 86-cm-tall copper alloy 3D printed combustion chamber.

Through the agreement with NASA’s Stennis Space Center, Launcher will have access to the state-of-the-art facility for testing its E-2 3D printed rocket engine. Originally, the company planned to test its rocket engine at a more affordable test site on Long Island. However, Stennis reached out to Launcher after it received the SBIR contract to come up with a solution to test its rocket engine there in a cost-efficient way.

Launcher E-2 Stennis Space Center

Being able to test its 3D printed engine at the advanced Stennis Space Center will enable Launcher to avoid certain challenges associated with the smaller Long Island facility, such as noise issues and having to supply multiple bottles of of high-pressure nitrogen, which is available on tap.

Presently, the NY-based company is developing the test stand structures it needs for its rocket engine tests, and it hopes it will be ready to begin combustion chamber tests this summer. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the Stennis Space Center is mostly closed—except for essential staff and security—which could potentially lead to delays. Launcher has been able to continue its operations in the pandemic (while complying with social distancing guidelines) as aerospace companies have been deemed essential.

The agreement signed by Launcher and the Stennis Space Center also looks to the long-term, enabling Launcher to eventually conduct full-scale tests on its E-2 engine. The NY-based company hopes to complete the rocket engine testing by the end of 2021. This step is part of the company’s longer roadmap, which aims to have its Rocket-1 small launch vehicle ready by the mid-2020s.

[Source: Space News]

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