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RFA test-fired its staged combustion engine

Image: Rocket Factory Augsburg

Paris, 26 July 2021. – The launch service provider Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA) has successfully tested its staged combustion engine and thus marked the entry of the first European player in this technology segment, the company said.

RFA’s eight-second engine test was conducted in Kiruna, Sweden, the company said.

“The eight-second burn time with a stable combustion is regarded in the industry as proof that an engine is fully functional, reaching a thermal steady-state across all engine components”, RFA said.

Staged combustion is the technological backbone of some of the world’s most successful space companies and has been limited to the United States, Russia, China, India, Japan and Ukraine, RFA said. SpaceX and Blue Origin “were the last private companies to develop this sophisticated technology with the ‘Raptor’ and the ‘BE-4’ engine, it added.

Staged combustion technology – according to RFA – is “characterized by higher efficiency and performance compared to conventional open-cycle rocket engines. The partially unburned exhaust gases from the turbopump are fed back to the main combustion chamber, avoiding the release of unburned propellant. Recycling the exhaust gases significantly increases launch vehicle efficiency while reducing launch costs and minimizing CO2 emissions from rocket launches.”

“These special features enable RFA to offer unmatched prices and thus lead the global competition for low-cost launchers”, the German startup said.

RFA’s goal is “to develop a launch vehicle prototype by the end of 2022 which can launch satellites into low Earth orbits on a weekly basis at unmatched prices”.

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