Rocketplane Global, Inc. has finalized significant changes to their suborbital vehicle the Rocketplane XP. The changes are focused at making the vehicle more responsive to the emerging sub-orbital tourism market and also represent refinements to the engineering design.
The changes include seating for five passengers in an all new airframe, the addition of afterburning jet engines and an interior designed by internationally renowned and award winning industrial designer, Frank Nuovo.
Key to the engineering changes are:
New Airframe: Rocketplane has moved from a Learjet based airframe to an all new airframe design that affords weight savings and more flexibility in packaging the vehicle systems. The fuselage change has allowed the cabin to be enlarged significantly and provides room for five passengers in a first class seating arrangement. The larger cabin also allows the vehicle to carry more microgravity payloads during science missions.
T-Tail: Through extensive engineering analysis and wind tunnel testing a new T-Tail has been adopted that is lighter, safer and provides more aerodynamic control.
Afterburning Engines: The J-85 afterburning jet engines provide increased thrust and allow the vehicle to reach an altitude of greater than 40,000 ft before the rocket engine is ignited.
Landing Gear: A new landing gear system designed by Loud Engineering and Manufacturing. Loud is the OEM of the F-5 landing gear, of which the XP landing gear will be based.
The culmination of all these changes has resulted in a modest 10% increase in weight that is more than offset by a 40% increase in thrust which allows a 66% increase in the passenger carrying capability of the vehicle.
Dave Faulkner, Program Manager of Rocketplane Global said, "The engineering changes are the culmination of more than 200,000 hours of engineering work by the company and its contractors to date. For almost a year and a half the company has been working on these changes that stemmed from work done in the early days of the project. Since that time these changes have been incorporated into the design, but have not been released to the public."
David also said, "Accompanying the engineering changes is the addition of an innovative new cabin interior designed by Frank Nuovo. We are very pleased to bring Frank Nuovo onto our team to merge the vehicle engineering with the aesthetic and ergonomic design of the interior. We believe that the direction he is taking will complement the truly unique experience the Rocketplane will provide to our passengers."