Mojave, Calif.-based XCOR has selected ATK’s Aerospace Structures Division for the detailed design and manufacture of the composite wings and control surfaces of the Lynx Mark I suborbital reusable launch vehicle, the two companies announced Nov. 14.
Test flights of the winged Lynx Mark I, with the ATK subassemblies, are scheduled to begin in early 2013, XCOR spokesman Bryan Campen says. This will pave the way for rocket-powered flights to altitudes of around 200,000 ft. starting later in the year.
The ATK-made wing incorporates final design changes made to improve stability and control based on data from a series of subsonic wind tunnel trials dating back to 2009 at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) in Dayton, Ohio.
These revealed a post-stall pitch up condition. Follow-on tests at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., conducted jointly with AFRL under a cooperative research and development agreement prompted further refinements to improve stability.
The changes stretched out the development timescale for the program, which was originally aiming at first flight in 2010.
Along with modifications to the nose section, which is now broader, the chine was also extended further outboard. The wingtip-mounted vertical tails were also been redesigned with a larger chord and extended ventral fins for added stability.
Once the initial design phase is complete and phase two begins, ATK says it will fabricate the wing structures at its facilities in Clearfield, Utah.
The Mark I will be the test and development pathfinder for a more capable Mark II production version designed to carry a passenger and experiments to 350,000 ft. from around 2014 onward.
XCOR plans up to four commercial suborbital flights per day of the Mark II, from multiple runways, offering government, commercial and educational clients 3 to 4 min. of microgravity at altitudes of 100 km (60 mi.). A Lynx Mark III, aimed at service entry in the 2015-2016 time frame and configured with an external dorsal payload pod, also is being designed.
The two-phase agreement with ATK adds a new twist to emerging commercial space development. “Until recently, NewSpace companies and established aerospace primes like ATK often had minimal interaction with companies like XCOR as the subcontractor,” said Andrew Nelson, chief operating officer for 13-year-old XCOR. “With this effort we are establishing a model of how smaller NewSpace companies may utilize established government primes as our suppliers.
ATK has demonstrated they are nimble, cost-effective and can leverage deep experience from prior larger projects.”
In August 2011, XCOR was selected by NASA to integrate and fly suborbital research and development missions under a $10 million Flight Opportunities Program agreement.