Encyclopedia Astronautica
XR3M9


XCOR Lox/CH4 rocket engine. 0.223 kN. First stages. Hardware. Methane-fueled engine allowing long-term on-orbit storage, higher density than hydrogen engines. Intended for use in reaction control systems and satellite maneuvering systems

In August 2005 XCOR successfully completed its first series of tests on the 3M9 223-newton (thrust rocket engine fueled by methane and liquid oxygen. The engine tests consisted of 22 engine firings totaling 65 seconds. The longest engine firing was 7 seconds. This first series of tests were done with self-pressurizing propellants. Pressure-fed and pump-fed versions were also in development.

The advantages of a methane-fueled engine include long-term on-orbit storage, higher density than hydrogen engines, higher performance than kerosene engines, and the potential for using methane derived from the Martian atmosphere as a fuel source. Future generations of the 3M9 engine were intended for use as Reaction Control Systems (RCS) and satellite maneuvering systems. The engine tests took place at XCOR's facilities at Mojave Spaceport.

Application: First stages.

Status: Hardware.
Thrust: 223 N (50 lbf).
First Launch: 2000-2004.

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Associated Propellants
  • Lox/CH4 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. More...

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