Phantom Express Engine Testing Advances

The engine is being tested for Boeing’s Phantom Express, which is a DARPA-funded project focused on developing a low-cost, reusable satellite launch vehicle capable of launching 10 times in 10 days.

  • patb2009

    across two weekends and a major holiday. Nice jobe

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    What are the differences between the AR-22 and the SSME?

  • newpapyrus

    Launching– just one– Phantom Express a day with a payload of water (1.36 tonnes) could supply an orbiting propellant producing (LOX/LH2) water depot with more than 40 tonnes of water per month and more than 480 tonnes of water per year.

    The Phantom express could also conveniently supply private commercial space stations with water for drinking, food preparation, hygiene, radiation shielding, and air (oxygen) production.

    Marcel

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    …and your point is?

    Launching– just one– fully reusable BFR a day with a payload of water (150 tonnes) could supply an orbiting propellant producing (LOX/LH2) water depot with more than 4,500 tonnes of water per month and more than 54,000 tonnes of water per year.

    The full reusable BFR could also deploy and conveniently supply private commercial space stations with water for drinking, food preparation, hygiene, radiation shielding, and air (oxygen) production … and could do so more cheaply than launch architectures with expendable upper stages.

  • Michael Halpern

    He’s somehow of the belief that Phantom Express is a magic solution. I also don’t get why he’s obsessed with delivering water as that is only useful if it has someplace to go, its mass and volume constraints limit what it can do, especially as he’s assuming the container and docking/berthing port is massless when really it might be 1 ton, as a low number, which means it could only get 360kg up depending on the orbit, assuming ISS, maybe 250kg.

  • Michael Halpern

    You are assuming several things:
    1 that the container that would carry the water is itself massless, obviously it will not be, hard to make it 1ton with propellant but no payload
    2 that the 1,360kg to LEO is using a reference orbit were you would have a station, this likely isn’t the case,
    3 that Phantom Express will not require extensive maintenance after 10 launches, this is foolish, the AR-22 is a downrated version of RS 25, which was infamous for being maintenance intensive, and one of the most complex engines ever built.
    4 that the upper stage will be cheap and readily available

  • Michael Halpern

    As far as I can tell, smaller combustion chamber run at lower power using some valves that the higher pressures of the RS 25 took off the table, that were originally going to be used for it, and updated electronics and computer systems.

  • newpapyrus

    The Phantom Express is a substantially simpler and safer — two engine– launch vehicle designed to be launched on a daily basis– and could probably easily be serially mass produced.

    The BFR, on the other hand, is a highly complex super heavy lift vehicle with 7 upper stage engines in addition to its 31 first stage engines carrying more than 900 tonnes of liquefied natural gas plus nearly 3000 tonnes of liquid oxygen.

    Safely and routinely launching the BFR will not be easy:-)

    Marcel

  • newpapyrus

    Actually, exploiting lunar water will be the ultimate solution.

    A single SLS launch could easily deploy a large reusable (12 times) vehicle to the lunar surface that could be capable of transporting at least 400 tonnes of lunar water to the Lagrange points per trip (4800 tonnes after 12 round trips).

    So a single SLS launch could, in theory, ultimately deploy at least 4800 tonnes of lunar water to the Lagrange points for cis-lunar activities and crewed interplanetary missions to the orbits of Mars, Venus, and even Jupiter.

    Marcel

  • newpapyrus

    1. It only requires about 31 kilogram tank to transport one tonne (1000 kilograms) of water. A 40 kilogram water bag can transport two tonnes of water.

    2. Maintaining a one engine launch vehicle will be nothing compared to maintaining a 38 engine (BFR) system.

    3. If you’re centrally mass producing at least 365 tiny upper stages per year, they’re going to be pretty cheap.

    Marcel

  • Michael Halpern

    1 still needs its own propulsion
    2 its a two engine and no it took MONTHS to turn around an RS 25, expect similar time for AR 22, as they are almost the same engine. 38 engines designed for easy maintenance that will be produced in quantity to facilitate quick replacement,
    3 assuming they aren’t solid or using RL 10 engines, maybe but they are more expensive than one that can be used hundreds of times.

  • Michael Halpern

    Moon is extra Delta v and currently the only long duration spacecraft that uses H2/O2 (non cryogenic at that) is the ISS

  • Michael Halpern

    The engine and propellant are principally FAR more complicated to work with. LH2 leaks through almost everything and needs to be kept at as close to absolute zero as we can achieve

  • voronwae

    Actually, I find this interesting for a couple of reasons.
    1. The SSME has undergone many years of development at the hands of former Pratt engineers who were asked to come in and quietly fix Rocketdyne’s mess. I’ve wondered how close the engine got to reaching its original design goals. I know it’s far more reliable now, but how much?

    2. Small payloads are far cheaper to develop and manage than large payloads. I’m not sure Boeing’s the company to do it, but it might be possible that somebody with a like-sized reusable vehicle could dramatically lower the cost of launching small payloads.

    While I’ve rooted for the final demise of Ares V, I’ve also secretly rooted for the SSME to stay alive and continue to receive development funding. Who knows? Maybe some day it will have the reputation that the RL-10 enjoys, although it’s unlikely to ever be considered cost-effective.

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Interesting, different combustion chamber and new engine valves is a substantial design change. I thought AJR just rebranded it and called it a new engine.

  • Michael Halpern

    Mostly they did, the new valves are very few, the combustion chamber is built the same way

  • envy

    Do you have a source for that? My understanding was that the AR-22 was physically the same as a late 1980s/early 1990s SSME block, just with an updated engine controller and running at lower chamber pressure.

  • envy

    I was pretty skeptical that they would even get this far, since the SSME is a complicated beast. Now lets see it fly!

    I think an orbital flight will require more than 100 seconds at full power. One step at a time though.

  • envy

    SSMEs are only rated for 55 flights. Of course, those are 500 second flights and this is derated, but I don’t think it’s going to fly 300 times. Definily not without major overhaul.