Mojave, CA, October 3, 2001 – XCOR Aerospace today announced that it has successfully completed the first phase of its flight test program for the EZ-Rocket. The EZ-Rocket is the world’s first privately built rocket powered airplane.
At 0900 hours today the EZ-Rocket took off from the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center to an altitude of 6,200 feet before gliding back to Runway 30. The EZ-Rocket is powered by twin 400 pound thrust rocket engines designed and built by XCOR Aerospace. The flight test program passed its first milestone by flying with both engines for an engine run time of 96 seconds and total flight time of five minutes and twenty seconds.
XCOR’s test pilot is retired United States Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Dick Rutan, a Vietnam veteran and world-famous test pilot. “I ignited one engine and the crew said everything looked good, so I lit the second engine and we started moving,” said Lt. Col. Rutan. “As I rolled down the runway Mike Melvill flew overhead in another Long-EZ and served as chase plane. The plane took off 1,200 feet down the runway and once airborne the vehicle rapidly accelerated to 160 knots. The rocket power provided positive, firm acceleration. Once we started running out of liquid oxygen I shut down both engines. Mike inspected the airplane visually and reported it was clean with no leaks. We entered a standard flame-out [landing] pattern and glided back to the runway.”
The EZ-Rocket is a research and development test bed for XCOR. “Routine operations must be the primary criterion for rocket engine development,” said XCOR Chief Engineer Dan DeLong. “Our approach is to build safe and reliable rocket engines first, then progress to the higher performance needed for orbital launch vehicles.”
XCOR president Jeff Greason said, “We passed a major milestone today. This is a significant technical achievement for a variety of reasons. First, once you get two engines working in combination it is significantly easier to cluster more engines for larger vehicles. Second, we were able to keep the engine and fuel flow running smoothly during the flight.”
The official roll-out and flight demonstration of the EZ-Rocket will take place this November at Mojave airport. Check the XCOR web site in the next few days for details on the event.
The EZ-Rocket is a modified Long-EZ homebuilt aircraft. The aircraft is powered by twin 400 lb thrust regeneratively cooled rocket engines and fueled by isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. The EZ-Rocket includes an external composite fuel tank and an insulated internal aluminum liquid oxygen tank. The modifications were performed at XCOR Aerospace’s Mojave, CA shop. Tests are performed at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center.