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  • Satellite Evolution Group

First ever in Europe: full-duration upper stage hot-fired at Esrange Space Center by RFA


For the first time in Europe, and second time worldwide, a privately developed staged combustion upper stage has been successfully hot-fired. The test was performed at Esrange Space Center in northern Sweden, owned and operated by Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), by German rocket company Rocket Factory Augsburg (RFA). The upper stage hot-fired for a full duration of 280 seconds at the company’s testbed facility. A milestone for SSC and the unique testbed infrastructure of Esrange.


Esrange is today one of few places worldwide with the capability to host full duration stage testing of flight article of orbital rockets. Several testbed facilities are currently operational at the base, developed by SSC according to each rocket partner’s needs and specifications.


“After a record speed development of this testbed facility for RFA, we are proud to host Europe’s first privately developed staged combustion upper stage test at Esrange. This was made possible thanks to a combination of the testbed facility's unique capabilities but primarily thanks to the exceptional expertise and dedication of the SSC team together with our fantastic collaboration with RFA,” says Philip Påhlsson, VP Strategy and Innovation Science Services at SSC.


For RFA, this marks the most important milestone so far in the development of the Helix engine: a total of 280 seconds of steady-state combustion tested the functionality and compatibility of all upper stage systems, including fueling processes, fuel management, pressurization, sensors, propulsion and control.


”The upper stage performed flawlessly and ran through the full 310s autosequence without tripping any redlines. The engine run-time was 280s and no damages could be identified after the test. This is the first successful qualification test of our upper stage, and we are super proud of our team for designing, building and testing in such a time- and cost-efficient fashion. The data we have collected will allow us to tune all stage sub-systems, for both the upper and first stage. Our next big step is the first stage hot firing test. We are approaching our first launch with great strides, it is getting serious,” says Dr. Stefan Brieschenk, the company's Chief Operating Officer.

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