Encyclopedia Astronautica

SpaceX Lox/Kerosene rocket engine. 30.7 kN. Upper stages. Hardware. Isp=320s. Pintle architecture, designed to be a high efficiency, low pressure vacuum engine. Fed only by tank pressure, ablatively cooled First flight 2006.

The SpaceX Kestrel Engine was built around the same pintle architecture as the Merlin engine. It was designed to be a high efficiency, low pressure vacuum engine. It did not have a turbo-pump and was fed only by tank pressure. Kestrel was ablatively cooled in the chamber and throat and radiatively cooled in the nozzle, which was fabricated from a high strength niobium alloy. Thrust vector control was provided by electro-mechanical actuators on the engine dome for pitch and yaw. Roll control (and attitude control during coast phases) was provided by helium cold gas thrusters The engine had dual redundant torch igniters, tested in vacuum, to ensure a reliable engine start. Since the igniters use the same propellants as the main engine, they were capable of as many restarts as necessary for a particular mission. In a multi-manifested mission, this allowed for drop-off of payloads at different orbital altitudes and inclinations. SpaceX completed development in early 2005.

Application: Upper stages.


Engine: 52 kg (114 lb). Propellant Formulation: Lox/RP-1. Thrust to Weight Ratio: 65. Restarts: 100.

Status: Hardware.
Unfuelled mass: 52 kg (114 lb).
Thrust: 30.70 kN (6,902 lbf).
Specific impulse: 320 s.
First Launch: 2000-2004.

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  • SpaceX American manufacturer of rockets, spacecraft, and rocket engines. SpaceX, USA. More...

Associated Propellants
  • Lox/Kerosene Liquid oxygen was the earliest, cheapest, safest, and eventually the preferred oxidiser for large space launchers. Its main drawback is that it is moderately cryogenic, and therefore not suitable for military uses where storage of the fuelled missile and quick launch are required. In January 1953 Rocketdyne commenced the REAP program to develop a number of improvements to the engines being developed for the Navaho and Atlas missiles. Among these was development of a special grade of kerosene suitable for rocket engines. Prior to that any number of rocket propellants derived from petroleum had been used. Goddard had begun with gasoline, and there were experimental engines powered by kerosene, diesel oil, paint thinner, or jet fuel kerosene JP-4 or JP-5. The wide variance in physical properties among fuels of the same class led to the identification of narrow-range petroleum fractions, embodied in 1954 in the standard US kerosene rocket fuel RP-1, covered by Military Specification MIL-R-25576. In Russia, similar specifications were developed for kerosene under the specifications T-1 and RG-1. The Russians also developed a compound of unknown formulation in the 1980's known as 'Sintin', or synthetic kerosene. More...

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