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Rocket Lab Completes Flight Qualification for Electron’s Rutherford Engine

By | March 23, 2016
      Rutherford Rocket Lab

      A hot fire test of the Rutherford engine. Photo: Rocket Lab

      [Via Satellite 03-23-2016] Following an extensive test program, Rocket Lab has qualified its Rutherford engine for flight aboard the Electron rocket. Rocket Lab created the 5,000lbf Rutherford engine specifically for the company’s Electron small satellite launch vehicle, which is capable of delivering a 150kg payload to a 500km sun-synchronous orbit.

      The company tested the engine for more than two years, and completed more than two hundred engine hot fires. The engine’s first flight is scheduled for to take place during the Electron test program, which will run throughout the second half of 2016. Electron uses nine Rutherford engines on its first stage, and a vacuum variant of the same engine on its second stage.

      Rutherford is the first oxygen/hydrocarbon engine to use additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, for all primary components of the combustor and propellant supply system. The engine also has a unique electric propulsion cycle, making use of high-performance brushless DC electric motors and lithium polymer batteries to drive its turbo-pumps.