Armadillo Launches a STIG-A Rocket; Captures Awesome Image of ‘Ballute’

by Nancy Atkinson on February 2, 2012

View of parachute ballute deployment at apogee during Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-A III rocket launched from Spaceport America, taken January 28, 2012. Image courtesy of Armadillo Aerospace

Over the weekend, Armadillo Aerospace launched one of their STIG-A rockets and captured a unique image of their recovery system. A ballute is a cross between a balloon and a parachute, and are braking devices that are usually used at high altitudes and high supersonic velocities. The one used by Armadillo looks very reminiscent of space capsule of the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo eras.

Armadillo Aerospace's STIG-A III Rocket Launches Successfully from Spaceport America. Image courtesy Armadillo Aerospace

Unfortunately, the ballute recovery system used by Armadillo didn’t work exactly as planned, although the balllute itself was successful in bringing the rocket’s nose cone back to Spaceport America in New Mexico, where it was launched. Just the GPS steerable main parachute was not able to be deployed as intended.

The launch took place on Saturday, January 28, 2012 but was not open to the public or publicized as taking place, as Armadillo Aerospace said they were testing proprietary advanced launch technologies. These images were just released today.

Launch occurred at 11:15 a.m. (MDT), and flight data indicates the rocket attained a maximum altitude of approximately 82-km (~50 miles).

“This vehicle was the same one that flew on December 4th, 2011 and successfully demonstrated the feasibility of a reusable rocket,” said Neil Milburn, VP of Program Management for Armadillo Aerospace. “The altitude achieved in this second flight was approximately twice that of the earlier flight and again tested many of the core technologies needed for the proposed manned reusable suborbital vehicle.”

View of the Rio Grande River valley from 239,000 ft (~50 mi) aboard Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-A III rocket launched from Spaceport America, taken January 28, 2012. Image courtesy Armadillo Aerospace

The images captured by the rocket-mounted camera at apogee also serve to indicate the spectacular views of the Rio Grande valley that await future private astronauts, Armadillo Aerospace said in a statement.

The next incremental step for Armadillo Aerospace will be a 100-km (~62 miles) plus “space shot” with the successor vehicle STIG-B, which is provisionally scheduled to launch in early spring from Spaceport America.

Another view of the Rio Grande River valley from 239,000 ft (~50 mi) aboard Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-A III rocket launched from Spaceport America, taken January 28, 2012. Image courtesy Armadillo Aerospace.

Source: Spaceport America

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Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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