Launcher’s 3D printed E-2 liquid rocket engine reaches full thrust

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The launch vehicle’s 3D-printed E-2 liquid rocket engine successfully demonstrated rated thrust, pressure, and oxidizer/fuel mixture ratio for the first time in a test fire at NASA’s Stennis Space Center .

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

Data from the E-2 engine test fire reads: 10 metric tons of thrust (22,046 lbf), 100 bar (1,450 psi) of combustion pressure and the best performing propellant mixture ratio 2.62 for LOX/kerosene at 100 bar pressure.

The E-2’s chamber is uniquely liquid oxygen cooled and 3D printed in one piece copper alloy. It also uses a copper-chromium-zirconium (CuCrZr) alloy for the industrial supply chain, which reduces supply chain costs and stresses compared to the 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 is a leader in small launch 3D printing technology with the development of the first large format (100 x 45 x 45 cm) custom 3D printer in partnership with AMCM. The launcher’s one-piece copper-alloy combustion chamber is produced on an AMCM M4K 3D printer. While E-2’s state-of-the-art coaxial injector is 3D printed on a Velo3D Sapphire.

The E-2 launcher’s combustion chamber throat was in perfect condition after 40 seconds of total test firing.

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

In a next step, Launcher will test again in early May with the same chamber and injector, slightly reworked to remove any film cooling – which increases performance. The goal is to increase C* efficiency from 90% in this test to Launcher⁠’s 98% goal.

E-2 is a closed cycle engine and the development of its high pressure (310 bar) high efficiency single shaft turbopump is progressing in parallel. In March 2022, Launcher successfully tested E-2’s liquid oxygen turbine and pump in boost mode at 130% rated flow. The launch vehicle plans to demonstrate a three-minute, full-duration test with the E-2 integrated turbopump in a closed-cycle configuration in the fourth quarter of 2022.

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