Credit: Boeing

The powerhouse engine for the reusable Phantom Express spaceplane is slated to undergo a series of daily hot-fire tests at NASA’s Stennis Center in Mississippi starting this summer.

Boeing is building the spaceplane under the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program.

The reusable Phantom Express spaceplane will take off vertically and land horizontally. The vehicle will be equipped with an expendable second stage capable of placing up to 3,000 pounds (1,361 kg) of payload into low Earth orbit.

Behind the program is demonstrating a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space access.

Aerojet Rocketdyne technicians complete final assembly on the first AR-22 rocket engine, shown at its facility located at Stennis Space Center. The engine was built for Boeing as part of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Experimental Spaceplane program.
Credit: Aerojet Rocketdyne

Reusability feature

Aerojet Rocketdyne’s AR-22 engine is capable of generating about 375,000 pounds (170,097 kg) of thrust and was designed to fly 55 missions with service every 10 missions. This reusability feature makes the AR-22 ideally suited for Phantom Express.

Derived from the Space Shuttle Main Engine that was designed from the outset for reusability, the AR-22 is the main propulsion for Phantom Express.

Aircraft-like operations

In a company statement, AR-22 Program Manager Jeff Haynes said: “The aircraft-like operations of Phantom Express are an important factor in the rapid turnaround of this spaceplane.” Haynes added that the engine has a hinged nacelle “that makes it easier to access and inspect the engines for rapid turnaround.”

Credit: Boeing

AR-22 testing will also provide insights that will be used to refine Phantom Express flight and turnaround procedures, while also informing the design requirements for the new ground infrastructure that Boeing is developing for the flight program.


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