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

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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

Armadillo Aerospace Successfully Lauches a Sounding Rocket from Spaceport America

Over the weekend Armadillo Aerospace successfully launched an advanced sounding rocket from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The launch took place on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011 at 11:00 a.m. (MST), and the STIG A rocket reached its expected sub-orbital altitude of 41.91 km (137,500 feet). Below is an image of Earth taken by a camera on board the rocket.

This latest launch is the thirteenth vertical launch test from the Spaceport America Vertical Launch Complex since 2006.

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“This successful test of our “STIG A” reusable sub-orbital rocket technology represents major progress for the Armadillo Aerospace flight test program,” said Neil Milburn, Vice President of Program Management at Armadillo Aerospace. “The flight successfully demonstrated many of the technologies that we need for our manned sub-orbital program.”

The STIG is a long, sleek rocket designed for lower drag, high speed, high altitude flights. This rocket is aerodynamically optimized for high altitude flights with long 15 inches (38 cm) diameter cylindrical tanks instead of larger spherical tanks.

Armadillo requested that the test flight be a non-public, unpublished event, as the company is testing proprietary advanced launch technologies.

The company is one of the leading developers of reusable rocket-powered vehicles and plans to provide a platform for civilian access to suborbital space via a partnership with Space Adventures, Ltd. Armadillo Aerospace has flown over 200 flight tests with over a dozen different vehicles.

Armadillo Aerospace's STIG A rocket launches from Spaceport America. Credit: Space Adventures

On board the rocket was an experiment designed, built, tested, integrated, and performed by a team of undergraduate students at the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the College of Engineering at Purdue University. The experiment studied a liquid and gas flow process that is sensitive to the gravity and acceleration levels encountered during spaceflight.
“Spaceport America has been an ideal launch facility for this kind of vehicle R&D testing activity,” said John Carmack, President and CTO of Armadillo Aerospace.

Officials from the spaceport were please at the launch’s success as well.

“Spaceport America continues to set the precedent for safe, efficient, effective service for commercial spaceflight customers,” said NMSA Executive Director Christine Anderson. “We are extremely pleased to support Armadillo Aerospace as they conduct their high altitude vehicle flight testing, and look forward to hosting their NASA-funded suborbital research launches.”

Source: Spaceport America