Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch team has announced that its aircraft is one step closer to providing convenient, reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit.
The company says it has hit another important milestone by completing the first phase of engine testing. It was the first time the aircraft’s six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines were started.
Engine testing was conducted with a build-up approach and consisted of three phases. First as a ‘dry motor,’ where an auxiliary power unit was used to charge the engine; next, as a ‘wet motor,’ where fuel was introduced; and finally, one at a time, each engine was started and allowed to idle. In these initial tests, each of the six engines operated as expected.
The team completed fuel testing, testing all six fuel tanks to ensure proper operations. Each of the six fuel tanks were filled independently to ensure proper operations of fuel mechanisms and to validate the tanks were properly sealed. The company also began testing the flight control system. So far it has exercised the full limits of motion and rate of deflection of control surfaces on the wing and stabilizers.
Before this week’s engine tests, there was the pre-requisite testing of the electrical, pneumatic, and fire detection systems which were completed successfully. Over the next few months, Stratolaunch will continue to test the aircraft’s engines at higher power levels and varying configurations, leading to the start of taxi tests.
September 20, 2017