Stoke Space continues to test reusable second stage, looks ahead to full rocket | Space

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Stoke Space recently carried out the first test of the full-size 30-thruster version of the innovative engine that the company is producing for its in-development second stage. This will be an integral part of its future Nova rocket, which aims to be a fully reusable medium lifter.

The engine test took place on Feb. 26 and follows the engine’s first test flight on its prototype vehicle, Hopper 2, in September 2023. Although fitted with only 15 chambers for that flight, Hopper 2 flew for 15 seconds, achieved a maximum altitude of 30 feet, traversed to a landing site, and touched down softly.

NSF recently spoke with Stoke Space to discuss the Hopper campaign and the path ahead. According to Stoke, “The Hopper vehicle was/is a full-size second stage prototype, equipped with a fully functioning actively cooled heat shield. The test flight provided clear evidence of this functionality, as evidenced by the icy condensation visible on the heat shield during flight in released photos and videos.”

Hopper 2 takes to the skies in a mix of fire and ice. Note the ice accumulating on the heat shield, evidence that the active cooling was operating during the flight. (Credit: Stoke Space)

As to how comprehensive the testing campaign was, the company added, “The Hopper campaign demonstrated our engine’s full landing burn capabilities, including deep throttle control and precise steering through differential throttle thrust vector control, even under conditions of minimal propellant and no payload.” Furthermore, “In our tests so far, we’ve successfully achieved burn durations that deplete the entire run tanks.”

Stoke Space also clarified, Our heat shield is engineered for active cooling at multiple critical mission stages, ensuring optimal protection, performance, and mobility to, through, and from space.”

When asked whether there were any specific engineering issues with pumping the hydrogen through the longer-than-usual channels, the company…

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