Excerpted from the FAA report, “Commercial Space Transportation: 2012 Year in Review”.
FAA Suborbital Flight Summary
On October 6, at New Mexico’s Spaceport America, Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-B suborbital reusable vehicle (SRV) made the only FAA-licensed suborbital launch of 2012. However, six other suborbital vehicles flew under experimental permits or Class 3 waivers.
The STIG-B flight was the first FAA-licensed launch from Spaceport America. The launch experienced an in-flight abort. It did not reach its planned altitude, but the vehicle was successfully recovered intact and later used to conduct launch tests in November and December. Armadillo successfully launched its STIG-A vehicle under a Class 3 Waiver in January, but the vehicle was lost during recovery.
During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.
My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?
Spaceport America will host suborbital launches by Armadillo Aerospace and UP Aerospace, each of which will mark a “first” for the desert launch base. New Mexico Spaceport Authority Executive Director Christine Anderson outlined the missions in a PowerPoint presentation to the NMSA board on Monday.
ARMADILLO PR — Following detailed analysis of the downlinked telemetry and audio/video recordings from both ground based cameras and a camera that was recovered from the rocket, Armadillo Aerospace has determined that the maximum altitude attained by the STIG-A rocket in the January 28th mission was approximately 82-km MSL (~50 miles).
NMSA PR – Upham, NM –New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced today a launch of a “STIG-A” rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace. The launch took place from Spaceport America’s vertical launch complex on Saturday, January 28, 2012. The research and development test flight was a non-public, unpublished event at the request of Armadillo Aerospace, as the company is testing proprietary advanced launch technologies.
Saturday’s Armadillo launch successfully lifted off at approximately 11:15 a.m. (MDT), which was within the dedicated, five-hour launch window, and preliminary data indicates the rocket reached its projected altitude of over 137,000 feet.
The STIG-A’s recovery system did not function properly after reaching its desired altitude however, the rocket was successfully retrieved after a hard landing within the predicted Spaceport America mission recover zone.