Daily news



RFA successfully tests full-scale staged combustion engine

June 21, 2021

 Launch service provider Rocket Factory Augsburg has demonstrated its technological leadership with its successful firing tests of its full-scale staged combustion engine. During the 2-second test, which was carried out in Kiruna (Sweden), RFA successfully commissioned the first staged combustion engine in Western Europe. Staged combustion technology is characterized by higher efficiencies and performances compared to traditional rocket engine designs. The partially unburnt exhaust gases from the turbopump are fed back to the main combustion chamber, thereby avoiding the release of unburned fuel. The recycling of the exhaust gases significantly increases the overall efficiency of the launch vehicle while reducing launch costs and also minimizing CO2-footprints of the launch activity. This ground-breaking achievement allows RFA to offer unmatched prices, putting them ahead in the global race for low-cost space launch.

“The successful test of our full-scale staged combustion engine reinforces our claim for market leadership,” said Dr. Stefan Brieschenk, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “Our technology allows us to carry 30 percent more payload into space at the same cost to the customer”, adds Jörn Spurmann, RFA’s Chief Commercial Officer.

Two planned milestones were already reached at the beginning of May of this year. In the so-called “power-pack test”, the turbopump and pre-burner were started and operated in a stable, steady-state thermo-mechanical condition for a total burn-time of 8 seconds. In the next development step, the first ignitions of the main combustion chamber were conducted, after which the test team connected the “power pack” to all systems of the full-scale engine and performed the complete system-level test.

RFA stands-out as the ninth company worldwide to have successfully tested a full-scale rocket engine using staged combustion. Staged combustion is the technological backbone of some of the world’s most successfully space companies and to this point, was limited to the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan and Ukraine. The US companies SpaceX and Blue Origin were the latest private companies to have developed this sophisticated technology with the “Raptor” full-flow staged combustion engine and “BE-4” staged combustion engine.