Commercial space company Exos Aerospace is in the midst of preparing for the first true flight of its reusable suborbital rocket. A successful flight could have incredible ramifications for space exploration, as the company has focused on making these reusable rockets affordable and just as effective as their more disposable counterparts.
Exos Aerospace was born from an essentially abandoned company called Armadillo Aerospace. Armadillo did develop a series of successful suborbital vehicles in the early 2000s but ceased full operations in 2013 when its founder decided to stop personally funding the company. Exos Aerospace purchased all critical assets and offered employment to a number of former Armadillo staff members.
Since then, the company has been working on improving and building upon the technology it acquired from Armadillo, including the Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE. Researchers hope that SARGE can serve a few different purposes. The first is to fulfill the demand for suborbital research. The second is to develop technology that could one day be used for a fast and affordable launch vehicle. Exos Aerospace wants to provide frequent and affordable access to space for individuals and agencies across the globe.
A hover test was successfully completed earlier this month, in which the rocket was suspended from a crane. This gives developers a chance to test key systems, including its engine, propulsion and guidance system. Representatives from Exos Aerospace told reporters that the test went exactly as planned, which was an exciting step.
The Federal Aviation Administration granted Exos Aerospace a launch license, permitting launches based out of New Mexico, at Spaceport America. This license was received shortly before the successful test flight. Chief operating officer John Quinn said that the environment at Exos Aerospace was one of excitement, as both of those steps moved them even closer to successfully launching SARGE.
Development and testing of the rocket occurred at Caddo Mills, Texas, in a facility owned by Exos Aerospace. The next step is to transport the rocket from Texas to New Mexico, along with several support staff. The launch is planned for April 7, which means that preparations have already begun.
Unlike other commercial agencies, Exos Aerospace is set to carry payload for paying customers aboard this flight, though they have not identified any names. The company hopes this flight can help them qualify for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. This program basically matches commercial agencies able to carry payloads into space with organizations that are developing satellites or other communications devices. Currently, the program’s providers include UP Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, and Blue Orgin.