Another Successful SpaceX Starlink Sortie Sling into Space

A reusability record has now been set by SpaceX for the firm’s Falcon 9 booster with this latest, successful launch of 60 Starlink satellites — quite appropriate, considering that June 4 is the 10th anniversary of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first flight by the company.

There are now 482 Starlinks on-orbit in LEO (that number includes two satellite prototypes that were slotted into space in early 2018).

This bevy of smallsats also contains one satellite that will be testing new tech that will decrease the satellite’s visibility at night on Earth by blocking the sun from reflecting off the spacecraft’s comms antenna surfaces. If this reflectivity mitigation proves to be viable, SpaceX plans to then incorporate this advance into future Starlink satellites.

Still a wonderment, the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage completed a perfect landing… a new fifth landing record for this first stage aboard the ocean-based barge “Just Read the Instructions.” The company’s “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief” vessels will also attempt to recover the mission’s two payload fairing halves – to date, three have been successfully recycled.

The liftoff occurred at 9:25 p.m., EDT, from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 and this was the eighth mission in SpaceX’s Starlink project. According to company CEO, Elon Musk, minimal internet coverage will require at least 400 Starlings on-orbit and 800 for moderate coverage. The firm hopes their service could be initiated later this year.

Upcoming plans for SpaceX will find the company scheduling two missions this June that will include additional Starlink satellites as well as a U.S. Space Force GPS satellite.

Astroscale U.S. to Build Astroscale Israel Ltd.

Astroscale U.S. Inc., the U.S. unit of Astroscale Holdings Inc., the market leader in securing long-term orbital sustainability, has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the intellectual property and other assets and to hire certain members of the staff of Effective Space Solutions R&D Ltd. (“ESS”), an Israeli satellite life-extension and servicing company.

These moves make Astroscale the only company solely dedicated to on-orbit services across LEO and geostationary GEO orbits and bring the company closer to realizing its vision of orbital sustainability for future generations. The closing of the transaction is contingent upon receipt of certain regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions.

Astroscale U.S. has created a new subsidiary, Astroscale Israel Ltd., which, upon closing of the transaction, will be staffed by former ESS employees and headquartered in Tel Aviv. Astroscale U.S. will focus on meeting clients’ satellite servicing needs, including those of the U.S. government. Astroscale Israel will serve as the company’s satellite servicing research and payload development group for life extension of GEO satellites, which provide critical communications, navigation and national security services.

ESS has developed some of the most promising and novel on-orbit servicing technologies in the market and has deep experience designing complex GEO missions and programs. Its Space Drone program, which will evolve into an Astroscale U.S. life-extension platform, has been widely acknowledged by leading satellite operators — including prospective customers Astroscale U.S. is in discussions with — as a cost effective, innovative and compatible solution for satellite servicing.

Independent valuations estimate that life extension and other on-orbit satellite services will generate more than $4 billion in revenues by 2028. GEO satellites often cost well over $200 million to deploy, underscoring the value of servicing, repairing or upgrading such satellites rather than just replacing them.

In preparation for supporting this nascent market, Astroscale Holdings recently announced a Series E funding round to support life extension missions. I-NET CORP., a leading Japanese data center provider, became the first investor in this new round, which is expected to remain open through the end of 2020. Astroscale has raised a total of US$140 million in its previous four funding rounds, and this new raise will enhance the company’s already strong portfolio of on-orbit services for space debris mitigation.

Ron Lopez, President and Managing Director of Astroscale U.S., said imagine if rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars to replace a GEO satellite, you could affordably extend the life of that satellite in orbit — that is the opportunity the company welcomes today with these outstanding new colleagues and capabilities. Astroscale is known for blazing trails in on-orbit debris-removal services in LEO, and now Astroscale U.S. will do the same for satellite life extension in GEO. The company is eager to start serving commercial operators, the U.S. government and partner governments around the world, all as a proud part of the U.S. space community.

Arie Halsband, Founder and CEO of ESS, remarked that the remarkable engineering team has been pioneering the on-orbit servicing market for the past several years. The company shares with Astroscale a similar vision and strategy for how this technology and platform could become a logistical solution for commercial and government GEO satellites, and beyond.

Nobu Okada, Founder & CEO of Astroscale, noted the world now relies on space-based services, and the COVID-19 pandemic only intensifies that reliance. The purpose at Astroscale is to enable space sustainability, and satellite life extension represents a massive leap in the firm’s ability to fulfill that purpose.

Astrobotic Gains a NASA SBIR Phase II Award for Spacecraft Nav System

NASA has selected Astrobotic for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II award to continue the firm’s development of UltraNav, a low-cost, autonomous, visual navigation system for spacecraft.

The system has wide-ranging applications, from the servicing of Earth satellites to journeys to challenging space destinations, such as the lunar poles or Martian mountains. UltraNav, short for Ultra-Compact Standalone Visual Relative Navigation, consists of a high-quality compact camera with a built-in computer carrying a proven suite of accelerated computer vision algorithms.

The system is optimized for space applications such as rendezvous and docking, precision planetary landing, and autonomous rover navigation. It can be packaged as a stand-alone sensor or part of a larger navigation system, customized with mission-specific algorithms, and integrated with a wide variety of spacecraft types, from smallsats all the way up to large human landers.

The visual navigation provided by UltraNav is critical for modern spacecraft operating at destinations beyond the reach of GPS, such as the Moon and deep space. In these settings, vision-based techniques can be used instead of GPS to accurately pinpoint a spacecraft’s location.

Even when GPS is available, visual navigation can ensure safety in critical maneuvers, such as those in the vicinity of other spacecraft. UltraNav performs visual navigation by taking pictures of the spacecraft’s surroundings, which may include a neighboring spacecraft or a planetary surface. Its algorithms then recognize features in those images and match them to preloaded maps with known dimensions. This in turn is used to calculate the spacecraft’s location relative to those features. As the spacecraft moves, so do the positions of the features in the images, enabling tracking of the spacecraft’s motion.

UltraNav is designed with a small size, weight, power consumption, and cost for the purpose of making advanced visual navigation and perception accessible to the broader commercial and low-budget space mission market. Traditionally, spacecraft with visual sensors require costly development to integrate disparate cameras, computers, and image processing software, limiting the use of these advanced technologies primarily to high-budget, flagship missions.

In addition to selling or licensing UltraNav to other spacecraft developers and companies, Astrobotic will use the technology for the firm’s own upcoming missions and vehicles, such as precision landing for its Peregrine lunar lander and visual navigation for its CubeRover and Polaris rovers.

Astrobotic’s UltraNav contract, valued at $750,000 over two years, is part of the NASA SBIR program’s annual investment in U.S. small businesses with promising new technologies whose benefits are strongly aligned with NASA’s future goals. The award will enable Astrobotic to continue and build upon the successful work performed on UltraNav under its prior NASA SBIR Phase I contract.

Chris Owens, Principal Investigator, said UltraNav builds on Astrobotic’s prior work developing inexpensive, reliable, and easy-to-use visual navigation tools, and demonstrates the company’s expertise in navigation and landing in GPS-denied applications. With the help of NASA SBIR funding, Astrobotic will continue to develop a compact visual space navigation system for use by smallsats, lunar landers, and surface rovers.


Arianespace Ramps Up for Vega’s Big, Small Spacecraft Mission and the ‘Ride-share’ of 53 Small Satellites



Arianespace personnel are utilizing smart glasses during certain payload checkout activities for Flight VV16 at the Spaceport in French Guiana, enabling customers to remotely monitor operations performed on satellites that will be orbited this month by the Vega light-lift launcher.


While preparations for the upcoming Vega launch were put on hold due to the Corona virus, Arianespace has now once again resumed activities for the next mission, which will be the proof-of-concept flight with the Vega launcher’s “ride-share” configuration — known as the Small Spacecraft Mission Service (SSMS).

Scheduled for the middle of June from the Spaceport in French Guiana, it will loft 53 micro- and nanosatellites for the benefit of 21 customers, deploying these payloads into Sun-Synchronous orbit.

For the mission, designated Flight VV16 in Arianespace’s launcher family numbering system, Vega will carry seven microsatellites weighing from 15 kg. to 150 kg., along with 46 smaller CubeSats. These spacecraft are to serve various applications, including Earth observation, telecommunications, science, technology and education.

The maiden flight for Europe’s SSMS

Avio, the Italian company that is production prime contractor for Vega launch vehicles, also developed the SSMS ride-share concept. Design authority for the multi-payload dispenser system is SAB Aerospace, an independent Italian SME (small/medium enterprise).

The SSMS program, initiated by the European Space Agency (ESA) with the European Commission’s contribution, will further Arianespace’s ability to offer ride-share solutions tailored for the growing small satellite market.

The SSMS dispenser is composed of modular components that are assembled as needed to serve as the interface with grouped payloads composed of microsatellites and CubeSats. Capable of accepting a full range of payload combinations, the SSMS configuration has been designed to be as responsive as possible in meeting the launch service market’s needs for both institutional and commercial customers.


Avio members of the launch team for Arianespace Flight VV16 were flown from Rome to Cayenne aboard a chartered jetliner.

Launch team members arrive from Europe

Assembly of Flight VV16’s light-lift Vega launcher was performed during February on the Spaceport’s SLV launch pad, but was followed in mid-March by an operations stand-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to fully implement sanitary protective measures.

With the decision to restart operational activities at the Spaceport, a team of some 70 people — led by engineers and technicians from Avio, and including personnel from other companies — was flown aboard a chartered jetliner from Europe to French Guiana.

After arriving at Félix Eboué Airport near the capital city of Cayenne, the team members underwent a quarantine period before being authorized to work at the launch site.

Thierry Wilmart, who heads the Missions & Customers Department at Arianespace said that they are delighted to have resumed operations. Protective measures relating to COVID-19 have been taken throughout the launch site’s facilities, and mission personnel have received instructions on respecting the sanitary guidelines.

Wilmart noted that among the first activities was an evaluation of using smart glasses during payload preparation activities with several of the spacecraft passengers on Flight VV16. Adding that the results are very positive, and this efficient means of being connected enables customers to remotely monitor operations conducted by Arianespace personnel on their satellites.

The Vega launcher for Arianespace Flight VV16 is shown taking shape during integration activity at the Spaceport in February. This photo sequence shows the solid propellant stages being “stacked” at the Vega Launch Complex (SLV), with the Zefiro 23 second stage’s integration on the P80 first stage (at left), followed by installation of the Zefiro 9 third stage atop them (center). In the photo at right, Vega receives its liquid-propellant Attitude and Vernier Upper Module (AVUM).


Forrester Reports: SES Actions  + Intelsat’s Request to the Bankruptcy Court


Chris Forrester

SES, as largely expected under the company’s ‘Simplify and Amplify’ cost-savings program, is to restructure their global operations. As part of the scheme, the company will consolidate many of their European offices into its Luxembourg HQ according to journalist Chris Forrester‘s article at the Advanced Television infosite.

SES plans to close its offices in Brussels, central London, the Isle of Man, Warsaw and Zurich – redistributing activities in these locations to other offices in Kiev, Stockholm, Stockley Park in London and The Hague as well as its headquarters in Luxembourg.

An SES statement said, “In addition to consolidating SES’s global footprint and streamlining operating functions, other restructuring and delayering is underway including the removal of numerous open positions. SES has launched a compelling voluntary phased retirement program and is retraining and realigning resources internally towards high-value future market opportunities and to bolster its position in cloud, mobility and other emerging verticals. In aggregate, these changes will impact between 10 and 15 percent of its global employee base. Given that a number of these changes will impact employees in Luxembourg, SES has engaged its personnel representatives to discuss the implementation of a social plan.”

Steve Collar

Steve Collar, the CEO of SES, said, “In this rapidly evolving market, it is important that SES remains an agile business partner for our customers. ‘Simplify & Amplify’ is a transformational undertaking that will streamline our business, drive collaboration, and improve efficiency. We are making these changes thoughtfully, ensuring that, wherever possible, we redeploy our talent within the company and minimize the impact to our global workforce while enhancing our ability to support and serve our global customer base.”

Chris also added the following news that SES currently has two core deployments of satellites: It has a fleet of powerful geostationary satellites that just about serves the whole planet as well as 20, O3b (‘the Other 3 Billion’) satellites in MEO, with seven new ‘super-power’ O3b satellites on order from Boeing, with their deployment to start in 2021.

Artistic rendition of the SES O3b constellation.
Image is courtesy of SES.

The O3b fleet is responsible for much of SES ‘Networks’ division and SES has said that this is likely to be spun off into a new business.

Now, in common with Viasat, Telesat and even OneWeb, SES is looking to expand its O3b division dramatically with extra orbiting assets. SES already has FCC permission to expand beyond the existing (20 existing + seven new) O3b satellites. Back in 2018, the FCC approved a planned framework expansion to triple its O3b mPOWER fleet by giving it US market access for another 22 high-powered satellites, seven of which are already in construction and scheduled for launch beginning in 2021.

An SES spokesperson said, “We have always said the first seven satellites announced for O3b mPOWER is just the beginning, much as it was with O3b where our initial order was eight. The filing reaffirms our belief in MEO as a fantastic orbit from which we deliver high-end customer solutions underscored by the recent O3b mPOWER customer announcements and our proven success with our existing O3b constellation.”

SES is now proposing a fleet of new LEO satellites. The firm’s May 26th formal filing to the FCC asks for some key modifications including:

  • 10 satellites at 8062 kms in equatorial orbits
  • 24 satellites in inclined orbits at 8062 kms
  • 36 satellites in inclined orbits at 507 kms


There are no dates supplied as to when the LEO fleet might happen. Indeed, the FCC filing does not obligate SES/O3b to proceed with the plan, but there are US government funds in the offing and a total of nine businesses have made FCC filings ahead of the May 26th deadline for potential spectrum allocations, including SES, Viasat, OneWeb, Telesat, Kepler, SpaceX and others.

The SES application stated, “The proposed expansion will allow O3b to respond to growing demand from Internet service providers, fixed and mobile network operators, large enterprises and governments for low-latency, high-throughput satellite capacity that enables fast, flexible and affordable broadband connectivity in locations unserved or underserved by terrestrial networks. Grant of this Modification will allow O3b to build on its proven record of meeting customer requirements for high-quality, cost-effective satellite services and will therefore serve the public interest.
     “The new satellites will also be equipped with the ability to perform satellite-to-satellite communications. O3b’s LEO satellites will use the 27.5-29.1 GHz and 29.5-30 GHz FSS spectrum to transmit to O3b’s MEO satellites and to geostationary satellite orbit (GSO) space stations. The O3b MEO satellites will use the 17.8-18.6 GHz and 18.8-20.2 GHz FSS and MSS feeder link spectrum to transmit to O3b’s LEO satellites, and the LEO satellites will receive transmissions in these bands from GSO space stations as well. This functionality will enhance the overall network’s ability to support innovative offerings that use a combination of space station assets to satisfy developing customer needs.”

Also at the Advanced Television infosite is information that, last October, Intelsat made a $50 million “synergistic” loan to BlackSky, owned by Spaceflight Industries. Now the company wants the Court to amend the loan obligations and permit certain sales plans to proceed despite the bankruptcy.

Spaceflight describes itself as a ‘next generation’ space company with launch facilities, and its BlackSky division specializes in images from space, industrial IoT and event monitoring. BlackSky wants a constellation of 60 EO satellites. Four are already orbiting and a further 6 are expected to launch later this year.

Artistic rendition of a BlackSky smallsat on-orbit.
Image is courtesy of the company.

Japan-based conglomerate Mitsui & Co loaned a separate $26 million to Spaceflight on October 31st 2019. Earlier this year Mitsui joined with transport and logistics business Yamasa to buy Spaceflight Industries in a 50/50 joint-venture.

Spaceflight had expected the sale of its “Industries” division to Mitsui to wrap in Q2 this year, and the deal has already been cleared by certain US regulators. Intelsat told the Court that the sale of Spaceflight’s launch business is ready to close subject to the Court’s approval.

Spaceflight owes cash to LeoStella, a joint-venture between Spaceflight and Thales Alenia Space.

Intelsat’s filing to the court said, “The Spaceflight Loan Agreement requires that proceeds from the Launch Business Sale would first be used to repay any outstanding amounts owed on the Mitsui Loan, after which excess proceeds would be used to repay overdue amounts owed to Leostella LCC, a satellite manufacturing joint venture (the “Joint Venture”) in which Industries owns a 50 percent interest.  Thales Alenia Space France owns the remaining 50 percent interest in the Joint Venture.”

Forrester Reports: Unsecured Creditors Gain Intelsat Bankruptcy Court Access + Telesat Wants More…

Chris Forrester

Some Intelsat smaller shareholders are appealing to the US Trustee that they gain special representation in the bankruptcy court, saying that they are being ignored in the satellite operator’s reconstruction and that they fear being wiped out in the process, as is being reported by journalist Chris Forrester at the Advanced Television infosite.

There is a planned hearing on June 9th into many matters connected with Intelsat’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Their letter to US Trustee John Fitzgerald, as first reported in industry magazines, stated, “[Intelsat] management deliberately defaulted on a debt payment when they had the cash on hand to pay. They also stated that the bankruptcy was only necessary to acquire a bridge loan that would allow the company to move forward on a lucrative 5G FCC contract. After filing for bankruptcy, management revealed that they had sourced the bridge loan internally, but now wished to use this opportunity for a full restructure. Wiping out shareholders would seem to be management’s logical next step – given such a lack of transparency.”

The letter also referred to allegations of insider trading and said that Intelsat’s management had not acted in the best interests of all shareholders.

Fitzgerald on May 27th created a committee of unsecured creditors comprising Boeing, the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corp, Delaware Trust, JSAT International and others to serve.

Also being reported at the Advanced Television infosite: Notwithstanding the financial challenges head – and a string of bankruptcies from those pushing for satellite mega constellations – Ottawa-based Telesat is asking US regulators to approve a significant expansion of its planned 209-craft constellation. Now it wants 1,671 satellites.

Earlier this week, it was reported that OneWeb, despite being in Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, wants to boost its constellation to a massive 48,000 satellites in orbit from the current planned 648. Just 74 were orbited prior to it entering bankruptcy protection.

Back in November of 2019, LeoSat, a would-be constellation operator, failed and suspended operations, having struggled to put financing in place. LeoSat, which was backed in part by Thales Alenia Space, wanted 108 satellites in orbit. Its initial finance came from Hispasat and SkyPerfect/JSAT of Japan but the two declined to participate in a further funding round.

Telesat already has two test/debut satellites in orbit, but is just one business that, on May 26th, filed applications to the FCC to modify its plans. OneWeb made its similar 48,000 satellite expansion plan on the same day.

Telesat initially wanted just 117 satellites in its LEO plan. Then its plans expanded to 298 craft. Now it wants a 1,671 constellation in two orbits for efficient delivery of broadband connectivity.  However, it has yet to confirm who will build or launch the satellites but has signed provisional contracts with two – unnamed – prime contractors.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX is also extremely active in this space with his ‘Starlink’ system already having launched some 420 satellites. Another 60 were due to launch on May 27th but the planned – and now delayed – launch of two astronauts to the International Space Station interfered with the Starlink launch schedule. The next launch for Starlink is now expected in early June. Musk has firm plans for an initial 12,000 satellites and eventually another 30,000 on top of that.

The ‘Holy Grail’ for these low-orbit satellites is low latency broadband connectivity and then delivering that bandwidth to any location on the planet.


Viasat’s LEO Interests…

Artistic rendition of the ViaSat-3 satellite.

The cause de rigueur for industry actors these days encompasses smallsats due to their efficacy and viability in accomplishing numerous tasks which were once the purview of larger spacecraft.

Now add Viasat to the list of companies planning LEO constellations that are comprised of hundreds of satellites. Gone, apparently, is the company’s plan for a MEO constellation, opting now for the infusion of LEO smallsats into orbit.

One key for the company’s plans revolves around some subsidy funding from the $16 billion RDOF (Rural Digital Opportunity Fund) established by the Federal Communications Commission for direct monetary injections into broadband programs. This potential government payout certainly affords Viasat with an enticing move into the LEO constellation market segment.

This information comes on the heels of Viasat’s announcement of their ninth consecutive quarter of growth, bringing in Q4 2020 revenues to just over $591 million and a y-o-y of $2.3 billion and $212.4 million in revenues derived from the firm’s satellite services… that’s a y-o-y of 10.5 percent.

Now look for Viasat to request the FCC’s prior approval of the firm’s 20 MEO satellites to be transitioned to their LEO constellation. However, nothing is a given, due to the FCC’s rules regarding how the initial $16 billion of the RDOF’s total $20.4 billion initial funding will be allocated to Phase 1 or even if firms, such as Viasat, can meet the agency’s broadband performance tiers. (See the FCC’s “Measuring Fixed Broadband — Eighth Report at this direct infolink —“)

Mark Dankberg

Company CEO Mark Dankberg realizes this will be an uphill battle for Viasat and is hopeful that Phase 2 reserved RDOF funding of $4.4 billion in subsidies will encompass eligibility for LEO activities. Phase 2 will kick in after new broadband maps are developed to mark underserved areas.

Still on the Viasat development table are the ViaSat-3 and ViaSat-4 satellites. Dankberg stated that a LEO constellation would find realization sometime around 2026, if all comes to fruition.


Rocket Lab Resumes Launch Ops for ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’ New Zealand Launch

Rocket Lab has resumed launch operations for the firm’s next Electron launch, following the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

Rocket Lab’s 12th Electron launch was postponed from its original date of March 27th following the implementation of the New Zealand Government’s Alert Level 4 Covid-19 national response, which required most businesses to close, restricted travel and instructed people to stay home.

With COVID-19 restrictions now eased, a new launch window for this mission has been scheduled to commence June 11, 2020, NZT, from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 on New Zealand’s Mahia Peninsula. The mission will loft payloads for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Canberra Space.

The Electron launch vehicle and the Launch Complex 1 ground systems have remained in a state of readiness throughout the Covid-19 lockdown in preparation for a quick return to launch operations. Enhanced health and safety processes will be implemented for this launch in line with government health advice to protect Rocket Lab personnel. These measures include physical distancing, split shifts, maintaining contact tracing registers, limiting interaction between team members, enhanced cleaning, and stringent hygiene standards.

Payloads onboard ‘Don’t Stop Me Now’: NASA’s ANDESITE (Ad-Hoc Network Demonstration for Extended Satellite-Based Inquiry and Other Team Endeavors) satellite will launch as part of the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI). Created by students and researchers at Boston University, ANDESITE will conduct groundbreaking scientific study into Earth’s magnetic field.

This mission also carries three payloads designed, built and operated by the National Reconnaissance Office. The mission was procured under the agency’s Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket (RASR) contract vehicle. RASR allows the NRO to explore new launch opportunities that provide a streamlined, commercial approach for getting small satellites into space, as well as provide those working in the small satellite community with timely and cost-effective access to space.

The final payload onboard is the M2 Pathfinder satellite built in a collaboration between the University of New South Wales Canberra Space and the Australian Government. The M2 Pathfinder will test communications architecture and other technologies that will assist in informing the future space capabilities of Australia. The satellite will demonstrate the ability of an onboard software-based radio to operate and reconfigure while on-orbit.


Exos Aerospace’s Rocket Engine Test Successful Despite Explosion

Set upon the Caddo Mills (Texas) Airport Testpad, Exos Aerospace’s new SARGE R2 rocket engine was ready for testing.

The company’s efficient, eight-man Operations Team prepared to conduct a 55-second engine run test. In the briefest moment, as the valves opened and the liquid oxygen mixed with the Ethanol fuel, the ambient noise was sucked into a vapor of silence, then blasted by the roar of a clean-burning engine.

For 15 seconds, the fiery exhaust gave a glimpse into the thrust that will fly the Exos’ SARGE R2 rocket. However, the impressive display of power was cut short by the failure of the LOX tank on the test stand, resulting in the near-instantaneous release of the liquid oxygen and ignition of the residual Ethanol in the supply lines between the tanks and the engine. This created all the pomp & circumstance expected of such an energetic event.

After the level-two Safety event was under control, the Exos team was in good spirits, as they seemed more focused on the new data and slight performance boost of the SARGE engine than with the theatrics that accompanied the test.

John Quinn

Co-Founder and COO, John Quinn, said the company knew the test-stand was nearing its end-of-life, but the failure will feed the firm’s Weibull analysis and will make our space vehicles more reliable as hard data points feed better models, resulting in better hardware understanding. If you can safely Run To Failure, it can provide both valuable data on in-service hardware and also offer financial benefits. Quinn relayed that the SARGE platform continues to serve as a capability demonstrator and risk mitigation program as the company proceeds to develop this reusable orbital rocket.

The Exos team team was well outside the blast zone and the engine survived with minimal damage. The test stand Ethanol and other supply tanks on the truck were unscathed by the blast. Though prognostic event prediction is far preferred, the failure provides valuable data that the team is working to extract from the test sleds memory. While the hope had been to obtain a few more uses out of the test stand, it served the company well, having supported more than 200 tests.

The cost savings of Running To Failure could pay for most of the materials needed to build several test stands, but the real value is understanding the operational Failure Mode.

Co-Founder Phil Eaton added that the company expected some improvements on this second SARGE build, but the engine ran at the high-end of our design range.

“She was hauling,” exclaimed safety officer Neil Milburn who has 20+ years deciphering the physics of many such engines.

The Texas-based rocket manufacturer is proving, once again, that high-performance space flight technologies can be developed on an accelerated timeframe, with a small efficient team, using their ExosWorks program structure. Their last SARGE reusable test flight marked the decommissioning of SARGE I. This was the fourth consecutive flight of the same rocket.

Exos stands with the three companies in the world that have flown the same rocket four times. SpaceX did it with 6,000+ employees, Blue Origin with a team of over 3,000, and Exos Aerospace (on a smaller scale, of course) with fewer than 20 employees.

Significant progress is being made to that end as EXOS has begun work through its first National Charter Enterprise Program in Italy (working with PricewaterhouseCoopers) and is working to replicate the effort in South Australia. The team will be applying their accelerated processes to orbital rocket development in a Special Economic Zone in the Basilicata region of Italy. The National Charter Enterprise model may mark the beginning of a new alternative to VC financing with Exos Aerospace poised to become a cost-effective microgravity provider, making SPACEavailable… to the world.