Manufacturer: XCOR Aerospace
Type: experimental jet-powered version of Long-EZ canard pusher
Program: Rocket Racing League
Powerplant: 2 x 400 lb. regeneratively cooled rocket engines
Significant date: 2002
The EZ-Rocket is a modified Long-EZ homebuilt aircraft. The aircraft is powered by twin 400 lb. thrust regeneratively cooled rocket engines and fueled by isopropyl alcohol and liquid oxygen. The two engines can be powered on and off on-demand while in flight. The EZ-Rocket can only fly under power for a few minutes at a time, and can only climb to about 10,000 feet on a full fuel load. The EZ-Rocket includes an external composite fuel tank and an insulated internal aluminum liquid oxygen tank. No propellants are carried in the Long-EZ gas tanks because they are not resistant to alcohol, and because the fuel tank gets more pressure than the strake tanks can handle. The two aluminum liquid oxygen tanks are insulated with styrofoam and occupy the back seat.
The modifications were performed at XCOR Aerospace's Mojave, CA shop. Tests are performed at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center. The EZ-Rocket has also flown at EAA Oshkosh 2002, the largest airshow in the world, held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Rumor has it that when XCOR modified the Long-EZ to become the EZ-Rocket, they approached their local FSDO to relicense N132EZ with an experimental non-certified engine. The story is going around that the FAA guy did not ask what particular engine or even what "type" of engine. A corny story from a company whose rocket engine development team's equally corny motto is "If you can't spill it on your foot, we're not interested in using it in our fuel!"
The purpose of the EZ-Rocket conversion was to show that it was possible to design and build a complete aircraft rocket propulsion system that is safe, simple, cheap, reliable, and above all operable. XCOR insists that they never intended to sell similar aircraft for private use. The choice of the Long-EZ as an airframe was based on its pusher configuration and its good power-off glide capability. By flying and testing, the company gained valuable experience that should make the next generation engines better. None of the operating limitations of a standard Long-EZ are exceeded in this airplane, although a steep climb is needed to keep from exceeding Vne with both engines running.
The first flights of XCOR Aerospace's EZ-Rocket were conducted by Colonel Richard Searfoss a former astronaut and shuttle commander. The EZ-Rocket has flown 15 times to date. The first 13 flights were conducted at our base of operations at the Mojave Civilian Flight Test Center in Mojave, CA. Flights 14 and 15 were performed in front of a very large crowd of airshow attendees at the EAA AirVenture fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Dick Rutan was the test pilot on most of the EZ-Rocket's flights, though XCOR chase plane pilot Mike Melvill has also flown the aircraft.. Rutan is under contract with XCOR to fly it and has lots of experience in this type of airplane. His first words after shutting the engines down were "That was a real kick in the pants!" The engines are easily restartable, and Dick Rutan has the choice of extending the glide if he chooses. The engines were recently restarted in mid-flight and the plane has completed touch-and-goes—something that had never been done before in a rocket powered aircraft.
The EZ-Rocket features many safety features, many inherent to the very Long-EZ design:
The EZ-Rocket is not the first jet-powered Long-EZ derivative. In 1993, Task Research and Scaled developed the Vantage; a kitbuilder by the name of Greg Richter has been flying a jet-powered version of the Cozy appropriately called the Cozyjet; and a pulse-detonation engine test-bed has also been developed by the U.S. Air Force as the Borealis.
Population: 1 [N132 EZ] (c/n 132)
Crew/passengers: 1Main sources:
- the official EZ-Rocket page at XCOR
- Mojave Transportation Museum
- How the EZ-Rocket works (with mistakes)
- hobby-space.com (mistakes corrected)
The Rocket Racing League
Dr. Diamandis, The man behind the $10 million Ansari X-Prize for sub orbital travel - which was won earlier this year - has started a new competition, the Rocket Racing League. The high speed, high adrenaline race will take place 5,000 ft (1500 m) above the ground, with skilled pilots competing against one another in a spectacular 3D race. The First 'X-Racers' will be identical, and ready built by XCOR Aerospace, in an effort to get the ball rolling. It is hoped unique private participants will quickly follow. The original Ansari X-Prize was won by Scaled Composites's SpaceShipOne. The new X-Prize, like the original is intended as a 'technology accelerator', a reward for pushing the boundaries of human achievement.
The first Rocket Racing League events are expected to take place some time in 2006. The races will be run over aerial tracks 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. The X-Racers will be set off in staggered side by side starts, with each pilot following their own virtual tunnel with the assistance of satellite navigation, thereby reducing the chance of an aerial collision. Upon takeoff, spectators will easily follow the race as the rocket planes remain in view and sport 20-foot rocket plumes. Fans can also track their favorite pilots' progress via large screen televisions and handheld GPS tracking devices using WiFi to stream video of the cockpit, live "on-track" shots, "side by side" views and wing angle views.
Fans at home will be treated to a three-dimensional course where the "tracks" pilots are following can be seen. Special effects for lap completions, barrier violations and penalties will also be a part of the show. The RRL plans to host a variety of races as it grows and each race will result in points awarded to its top finishers and qualifier. Timed qualifying rounds can be incorporated into the races, comparable to the 24-hour Le Mans race.