XCOR LOX piston pump

Photo courtesy of XCOR Aerospace.

If you want to make space travel truly affordable and turn it into a mainstream business, you have to do better than the conventional single-use designs that have been a standard for decades.

Reusability is a major step in that direction, but as we’ve seen with the Space Shuttle, reusability doesn’t necessarily bring affordability—not when hundreds of hours of refurbishment is required between flights.

With that in mind, XCOR Aerospace has been developing rocket components that are not only reusable, but also as serviceable as ordinary automotive parts. It’s all about making space travel as commonplace as any other mode of transportation. Which would, of course, change everything. Passenger rocket flights have the potential to make the Concord look like the Wright Flyer.

A key piece of the technology puzzle, as XCOR engineers see it, is fuel and oxidizer pumps. Their latest innovation, announced today, is a liquid oxygen piston pump. “The ability to ensure low cost and easy, repeatable manufacturing of critical pump technology over a 30 to 40 year product lifecycle is a major factor in why we chose this piston pump technology,” said Andrew Nelson, XCOR Chief Operating Officer in a press release.

The device will go into the company’s Lynx suborbital rocket plane, which XCOR CEO Jeff Greason has told me could begin flight testing as soon as this year.