NASA is loaning a rocket engine to Rocketplane Limited, Inc. of Oklahoma City as part of an innovative industry partnership program.

The program highlights NASA’s efforts to share advanced aeronautics, space and related technologies with the private sector to use ideas and investments that can lead to new capabilities.

NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, and the company signed a Space Act Agreement for use of an RS-88 engine in tests of its Rocketplane XP vehicle for three years. The company will provide NASA with design, test and operational information from the development.

The Rocketplane XP is a four-seat, modified Lear executive jet. It will incorporate a rocket engine for acceleration to achieve a planned peak altitude of almost 300,000 feet.

“We are always looking for ways to partner with the private sector to foster new commercial opportunities, such as this chance to work with Rocketplane on a commercial reusable launch vehicle,” said Helen Lane, acting director of Johnson’s Office of Technology Transfer. “NASA strives to ensure the products of its research and development benefit the public to the greatest extent possible.”

“With NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the support of local, state and federal governments, we hope to develop a safe, affordable and reusable spaceplane by integrating established technologies, such as the RS-88 engine,” said Bob Seto, Rocketplane’s vice president of engineering systems and analysis. According to Seto, the craft completed a preliminary design review in March 2005, and it is in the detail design phase.

The RS-88 engine is capable of 50,000 pounds of thrust. It was designed and built by The Boeing Company’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 seconds of successful engine operation.

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