The U.S. Air Force (USAF) announced at the 23rd National Space Symposium that it has awarded XCOR Aerospace a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Phase 1 contract to design and analyze a rocket-powered vehicle, which will reach 200,000 feet altitude and supersonic speeds. The contract is part of the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Air Vehicle Directorate’s Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Access Mission.

Using government and private funding, XCOR plans to construct a simple, all-rocket powered vehicle that will fly low suborbital demonstration missions. Preliminary vehicle design is currently underway. Private investment will be matched with USAF resources to complete vehicle fabrication during the SBIR Phase II period. This vehicle will build on a legacy of XCOR’s previous commercial and government technology projects, including reusable liquid rocket engines that are capable of hundreds of restarts, piston propellant pumps, low cost highly reliable valves, rapid propellant filling techniques, and proven reliable ignition systems.

This contract will provide the USAF with a tool for demonstrating operationally responsive high performance rocket systems with relevance to space lift and other military requirements, and will produce a flyable vehicle that the USAF can use as a test bed to empirically assess the parameters that drive operational responsiveness. These include labor hours per flight, turnaround time, what subsystems require the most unscheduled maintenance, what their frequency of failure is, and what their time of replacement is, among others. The AFRL will then be able to insert new technologies, such as ISHM, longer life subsystems, or other technologies that the USAF may want to evaluate and measure for their impact on vehicle performance and responsiveness.

XCOR has several years’ experience with a rocket powered vehicle, the EZ-Rocket, which flew 26 times, demonstrated a three hour turnaround time, and flew two sorties per day. Jeff Greason, XCOR President and co-founder, said, “XCOR is excited to be working with the Air Force Research Laboratory Air Vehicles Directorate on this project. We look forward to advancing capabilities that solve the overlapping needs of the military and commercial space flight.”


Aleta Jackson
XCOR Aerospace
Phone 661 824-4714 x113
Fax 661 824-0866