California-based aerospace company XCOR is using a Triumph Street Triple to test rocket components for a suborbital spacecraft.
Of course, what immediately comes to mind is a giant rocket strapped on to the Triumph, but the truth is much less dramatic, yet still fascinating. XCOR is using the Street Triple for endurance testing of bearings components for the rocket propellant piston pump of the Lynx suborbital spacecraft.
Normally, XCOR would use a pump test stand to test components like the bearings, which costs around $500 per minute to operate. The Triumph Street Triple and its Inline-Three engine produces similar enough characteristics to the Lynx’s liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel pumps, making it an effective, and much more affordable, option.
“We debated how best to put many hours of wear time on the critical bearing components of our rocket propellant piston pump, that are subject to significant wear and tear,” says Dan DeLong, XCOR Chief Engineer. “This particular motorcycle, the Triumph Street Triple, develops about the same horsepower and has the same cylinder arrangement as the liquid oxygen and kerosene fuel pumps for the Lynx suborbital spacecraft. That makes it ideal for a long-life pump test platform. The bike is much less expensive to operate than the full up rocket pump test stand. We’re adding hours of run time each ride, not just minutes.”
XCOR equipped the Street Triple with its bearings and rode it from the Robert Goddard Museum in Roswell, N.M., to its main facility in Mojave, Calif. The 20-hour trip was roughly equivalent to 400 flights of the Lynx spacecraft.
“The data show no discernible difference in bearing wear between when we started and when we finished,” says DeLong. “I call that a success.”
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