EXOS Sarge 3 Launch Goes Awry, Booster Recovered

The SARGE 3 rocket ascends from Spaceport America. (Credit: EXOS Aerospace webcast)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM — EXOS Aerospace’s SARGE 3 launch went awry shortly after liftoff from Spaceport America on Saturday as the suborbital rocket suffered control problems only seconds into its flight.

Liftoff appeared nominal, but then the rocket began to veer from side to side as it ascended. It was not clear from the webcast what altitude the booster reached.

SARGE rocket descending under parachute. (Credit: EXOS Aerospace)

Ground control team members lost sight of the rocket for a period. They then spotted it dumping fuel as it descended under a parachute guided by GPS.

The reusable rocket successfully touched down not far from its launch site. The rocket’s nose cone also landed in the New Mexican desert under a drogue parachute.

At the end of the company’s webcast, an official said the booster had apparently suffered a problem with its gimbal system.

EXOS, which is based in Caddo Mills, Texas, is attempting to build a business flying payloads on suborbital flights. The company also has plans for an orbital launcher that would carry small satellites.

EXOS uses technology originally pioneered by Armadillo Aerospace, a now-defunct company founded by gaming programmer John Carmack.

Virgin Orbit Loses 35 OneWeb Launches, Sues Over Termination Fee

Virgin Orbit’s Cosmic Girl 747 performs its first captive carry of LauncherOne. (Credit: Virgin Orbit)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

When the contract was announced in June 2015, it seemed like a blockbuster deal:  satellite Internet provider OneWeb had placed an order for 39 launches with options for 100 more for Virgin Galactic’s (now Virgin Orbit’s) LauncherOne.

What made the order extraordinary was not just the large number of launches, but the fact that the rocket really didn’t even exist yet. (The fact that Richard Branson’s Virgin Group was an investor in OneWeb probably helped.)

Four years later, the blockbuster deal is a bust. According to a lawsuit filed this week by Virgin Orbit, OneWeb last year canceled 35 of the 39 planned launches., slicing most of the value from the $234 million deal.

SpaceNews reports that Virgin Orbit orbit is suing for $46.32 million it claims OneWeb owes it from a $70 million contract termination fee.

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NASA Eyes Sounding Rocket Launches From Australia

A Black Brant IX sounding rockets lifts off from the Wallops Flight Facility with the ASPIRE experiment on board on Sept. 7, 2018. (Credit: NASA/Allison Stancil)

ADELAIDE, South Australia, 31 May 2019 (Australia Space Agency PR) — NASA is looking to Australian company Equatorial Launch Australia (ELA) to conduct rocket launches.

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Wallops Flight Facility has indicated it would like to progress discussions with ELA on their 2020 sounding rocket campaign. The campaign would provide temporary southern hemisphere launch facilities for sounding rockets for scientific investigations.

The proposed launch activities fall under the Space Activities Act 1998. The amended legislation to come into effect on 31 August 2019 (the Space (Launches and Returns) Act 2018). The Australian Space Agency is responsible for administering this legislation, including the relevant licenses and permits for launch sites and launch activities.

The Agency is also currently consulting with industry on draft rules under the amended Act. Ensuring the rules are in place for space activities is a priority for the Agency.

Head of the Australian Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark AC said, “NASA’s interest in conducting a sounding rocket campaign in Australia shows the increasing importance of commercial launch activities from Australia.

“As these activities build momentum, the Agency will continue its focus on creating a supportive regulatory environment that fosters industry growth, while ensuring public safety and considering our international obligations.”

Videos: Chinese Launch of Reusable Winged Suborbital Tech Demonstrator Rocket

Three Virgin Galactic Crew Presented with Commercial Astronaut Wings at 35th National Space Symposium

The curvature of the Earth from SpaceShipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., April 9,  2019 (Virgin Galactic PR) — The three-person crew from Virgin Galactic’s second space flight have received Commercial Astronaut Wings from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Chief Pilot, Dave Mackay, Lead Pilot trainer, Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci and Chief Astronaut Instructor, Beth Moses, were presented their wings at the 35th Space Symposium, where it was also announced that Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company (TSC) are to be presented the Space Achievement award later this week.

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UAE Eyeing Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo Flights

A view from SpacehipTwo. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is looking to host flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, The National reports.

Mohammad Al Ahbabi, director of the UAE Space Agency, said the organisation is working with Virgin Galactic on a bid to operate tourist space flights from Al Ain International Airport in the coming years….

“The reason why the company opted for Al Ain airport is that it is less crowded than other UAE airports, which are scheduled with thousands of flights.”

Airbus has used Al Ain airport to stress test its new aircraft in high summer temperatures, including the wide-body A350.

It was chosen for its hot, dry conditions and relatively quiet runways.

Abu Dhabi is part-owner of Virgin Galactic having invested $390 million in the company through its sovereign wealth fund, Mubadala Investment Company (formerly known as aabar Investments).

Exos’ SARGE Rocket Reached 20 km Before Abort

An Exos Aerospace SARGE rocket reached 19.8 km (12.3 miles) before the flight abort after launch from Spaceport America on March 2, the company announced in a statement.

SARGE’s autonomous control system aborted the flight at about 65,000 ft after the rocket reached its instantaneous impact point (IIP) limit, Exos said. In essence, booster determined it was likely to land outside of the permissible range.

The flight had aimed to reach 80 km (49.7 miles). Despite the early abort, the company said it was pleased with the results of the second flight of the reusable booster, which previously flew last August.

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EXOS Aerospace Launches SARGE Suborbital Rocket From Spaceport America

The reusable, suborbital rocket landed back in the desert under a parachute. No information yet on altitude.

Flight programs and associated payloads on the flight included:

SPACEedu… Help your school fund, build, fly and reuse CubeSat projects for their S.T.E.M research programs. Having already flown for many schools, Exos is literally taking education to a higher level.  P1. Arete’ Greater Nanticoke Area Trojans (space thermal energy transfer experiment).

SPACEbuild… Test or manufacture in space aboard an Exos vehicle for premium exposure to space flight conditions. The reduced cost of suborbital flights makes it a preferred risk mitigation step for qualifying orbital payloads. P2. NASA (Vibration Damper – TRL advancement),  P3. University of Central Florida (Dust Aggregation experiment – SPACE-2 NASA REDDI Payload), P4. Agronautics, LLC (Space hops & grain), P5. SOLGW  (memorabilia)

SPACEaid… Perform breakthrough medical research by leveraging the ability to test in the microgravity and vacuum of space.  With Exos we can return your payload within minutes of landing.  Our soft (5G) launch and fin stabilization means a gentle ride for your payload requiring less effort in payload design over other commercial launch options.  P6. Center for Applied Space Technologies (Sponsoring Mayo Clinic for two “BRIC66” payloads performing cell research)

SPACEship… Launch from Spaceport American in New Mexico and we’ll deliver your payload to space and eject it to perform your test outside our vehicle.*  (LEO target aboard our reusable (first stage) Jaguar vehicle – late 2022).

EXOS Aerospace Plans Suborbital SARGE Launch for Saturday

SARGE launch at Spaceport America. (Screenshot from Exos Aerospace webcast)

GREENVILLE, Texas (EXOS Aerospace PR) — EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Inc., a leading developer of reusable space launch vehicles based in Greenville, Texas, announces, “Reuse Viability Test” for their SARGE Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (SRLV).

Texas firm sets March 2nd, 2019 for the first reuse flight (Mission 1) of their Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE (SARGE)

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Bezos: No Asterisks Next to the Names of Blue Origin’s Astronauts

Blue Origin’s New Shepard reusable, suborbital rocket. (Credits: Blue Origin)

Two days before Virgin Galactic completed the ninth powered flight of its SpaceShipTwo suborbital program, rocket billionaire and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos threw some shade at billionaire Richard Branson’s rival suborbital space tourism venture. SpaceNews reports:

Bezos, in the interview, pointed out the altitude difference between the two vehicles. New Shepard has typically exceeded 100 kilometers, an altitude known as the Karman Line, on its test flights. SpaceShipTwo reached a peak altitude of 82.7 kilometers on its most recent test flight Dec. 13, its first above the 50-mile boundary used by U.S. government agencies to award astronaut wings.

“One of the issues that Virgin Galactic will have to address, eventually, is that they are not flying above the Karman Line, not yet,” Bezos said. “I think one of the things they will have to figure out how to get above the Karman Line.”

“We’ve always had as our mission that we wanted to fly above the Karman Line, because we didn’t want there to be any asterisks next to your name about whether you’re an astronaut or not,” he continued. “That’s something they’re going to have to address, in my opinion.”

For those who fly on New Shepard, he said, there’ll be “no asterisks.”

On Friday, Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity flew to 89.9 km (55.87 miles) on its fifth flight test, which was the highest altitude the program has reached to date.

There are two competing definitions of where space begins. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awarding civilian astronaut wings to anyone who flies above 50 miles (80.4 km). The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) recognizes 100 km (62.1 miles) as the boundary of space, although it is considering lowering the limit to 80 km (49.7 miles).

The FAA awarded astronaut wings to Mark “Forger” Stucky and Frederick “C.J.” Sturckow, who flew VSS Unity above 50 miles in December. The crew of Friday’s flight — pilots David Mackay and Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci, and chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses — will also qualify for astronaut wings.

New Shepard has flown 10 times without passengers; nine of those flights were above 100 km (62.1 miles). Bezos has said he expects to begin flying people aboard the suborbital spacecraft by the end of this year.

SpaceShipTwo Flies to Highest Altitude with 3 People Aboard

VSS Unity deploys its feather during reentry. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

MOJAVE, Calif., 22 Feb 2018 (Virgin Galactic PR) — Today, Virgin Galactic conducted its fifth powered test flight and second space flight of its commercial SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity.

In its fifth supersonic rocket powered test flight, Virgin Galactic reached space for the second time today in the skies above Mojave CA. Spaceship VSS Unity reached its highest speed and altitude to date and, for the first time, carried a third crew member on board along with research payloads from the NASA Flight Opportunities program.

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SpaceShipTwo Unity Reaches New Heights on Program’s Ninth Flight

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Unity completed its fifth powered flight on Friday, setting new altitude and speed records while carrying a third crew member for the first time.

Richard Branson’s suborbital space plane hit Mach 3.04 as it soared to an altitude of 295,007 ft (89.9 km/55.87 miles) over the California’s Mojave Desert.  Unity’s previous flight reached Mach 2.9 and an altitude of 82.72 km above the High Desert.

Virgin Galactic Chief Pilot David Mackay was in command with Mike ‘Sooch’ Masucci in the co-pilot’s seat. The company chief astronaut trainer, Beth Moses, was aboard to test out the astronaut experience. She was able to leave her seat in the six-passenger cabin and float around.