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.

“This was a great test,” said Chief Operating Officer John Quinn. “Any flight where Exos and its payload customers can walk away with another set of data and an intact vehicle/payload makes for a ‘good day’.”

The company said the abort further proved the reliability of the autonomous control system. The previous flight in August also aborted early due to a technical problem after it reached 28 km (17.4 miles).

“While this flight liftoff was dramatically better than the Pathfinder flight, the gimbal control tuning will be the primary targeted opportunity before the next flight,” the company said.

The rocket carried seven scientific and technical payloads, including:

  • Arete’ Greater Nanticoke Area Trojans (space thermal energy transfer experiment);
  • NASA vibration damper – technical readiness level advancement;
  • University of Central Florida dust aggregation experiment – SPACE-2 NASA REDDI payload;
  • Agronautics, LLC space hops & grain experiment;
  • Purdue University (PREFER) Space and Payload Atmospheric recording system;
  • Center for Applied Space Technologies — sponsoring Mayo Clinic for two “BRIC66” payloads performing cell research; and,
  • SOLGW (memorabilia).

The company’s full press release is below.

Exos Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Inc. Announces first SARGE Reuse “Mission 1” Test Launch at Spaceport America

Texas firms March 2nd, 2019 reuse flight (Mission 1) of their Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE (SARGE) Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle (SRLV) success.

Exos completed the Pathfinder Launch on August 25th 2018 from Spaceport America. It was the first step in validating the SARGE SRLV that was flown and recovered for reuse. Exos gathered critical flight data that enabled advancing the design and setting them up for continued reuse of their SARGE vehicle.

See the YouTube video recaps of the Pathfinder and reuse Mission 1 launch day at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCh2dmwg4BVRAznfQgdhTm7w

The March 2nd 2019 reuse “Mission 1” test flight of the SARGE reusable system carried commercial payloads flown under the programs listed below. The successful launch further solidified the company’s plan to use this technology as the design basis of their Jaguar orbital launch vehicle with reusable first stage capable of carrying 100kg to Low Earth Orbit (200-400km).

Flight programs and associated payloads that were on the March 2nd 2019 flight:

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.

  • Payload 1. 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.

  • Payload 2. NASA (Vibration Damper – TRL advancement)
  • Payload 3. University of Central Florida (Dust Aggregation experiment – SPACE-2 NASA REDDI Payload)
  • Payload 4. Agronautics, LLC (Space hops & grain)
  • Payload 5. SOLGW (memorabilia)
  • Payload 7 Purdue University (PREFER) Space and Payload Atmospheric recording system.

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.

  • Payload 6. Center for Applied Space Technologies (Sponsoring Mayo Clinic for two “BRIC66” payloads performing cell research)

* Ejected payloads have a >60day (normal lead-time) as Exos has to license the payload ejection your and your payload/recovery system must meet FAA/AST safety requirements.

Flight Summary

The payloads were loaded and the vehicle took to the air in the first half of the two hour and forty minute launch window. The three primary upgrades implemented since the Pathfinder 1 flight were validated in flight, dramatically improving the SARGE systems capabilities.

The flight aborted early (at about 65,000 feet) having reached the max IIP limit, further proving the autonomous control system capability. While this flight liftoff was dramatically better than the Pathfinder flight, the gimbal control tuning will be the primary targeted opportunity before the next flight.

The reusable vehicle deployed its drogue on cue, and started its decent back to earth. Just as SARGE came through the clouds the canopy deployed to start its flight back to the landing zone. The vehicle fought the elevated grounds winds to land well within the 7km safety circle and set down about 1.2km due east of its launch point.

Since SARGE did not make its 80km target altitude, but given the soft landing, Exos will return the payloads to their customers for analysis and upgrade before re-flight.

“This was a great test. Any flight where Exos and its payload customers can walk away with another set of data and an intact vehicle/payload makes for a “good day”. This flight builds on the evolution of reusable capabilities that will ultimately drive costs down for access to space” said John Quinn Exos COO.

What’s next for Exos Aerospace?

Shift to commercial operations

“We look forward to supporting space research, manufacturing, and educational opportunity for the world by providing frequent suborbital flights that provide fast and affordable access to space. Since the 36-foot tall 20-inch diameter SARGE rocket has now officially demonstrated its reusable capability, it is proving to be an excellent risk mitigation platform and template for evolving our orbital technology development program. The software and technology we have developed is key to design of the reusable first stage of our planned Jaguar LEO vehicle”.

Focus on STEM Education

Exos has a vision for taking our National Science Fair to space. With the capability to host up to fifty 1U payloads per flight we have a goal to take each states winning Science Fair CubeSat to space and then return the experiments back to the winning schools. Exos plans to apply to the NASA REDDI program to fund the inaugural “National Science Fair” flight. Are you interested in developing space payloads as part of your school or state’s Science Fair competition? Contact us at support@exosaero.com.

About Exos Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Inc.

Exos is a leading developer of reusable space launch vehicles based in Greenville, Texas. Exos provides affordable, repeatable, and reliable commercial spaceflight with accelerated turnaround. Our payload customers are those who want to “fly now,” rather than a year from now, need minutes of micro G time, and prompt access to their payload. Exos is booking payloads now on its SARGE vehicle and has SPACE available

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    “Since SARGE did not make its 80km target altitude, but given the soft landing, Exos will return the payloads to their customers for analysis and upgrade before re-flight.”

    So if it doesn’t make the planned apogee, it reflies for free until it does? Am I interpreting that correctly?

  • ThomasLMatula

    Sounds like, which is the same thing SpaceX is doing…

  • Ignacio Rockwill

    Interesting. I wonder how much the cost of a reflight hurts a small outfit like Exos.

    Was excited to see a cell research payload. Lots of suborbital payloads (pick a vehicle – zero g flight, New Shepard, SS2) are from what I consider conventional players. really hope to see other disciplines find utility in suborbital spaceflight.

  • duheagle

    I’m sure EXOS would prefer not to have to do free re-flights. That said, it seems SARGE requires minimal refit between missions so there isn’t much payroll and materials expense associated with that. There’s a new full load of propellant needed to re-fly, but that is relatively inexpensive owing to the small size of the vehicle. Then there’s the payroll expense of the staffers involved in a normal launch. I don’t think we’re looking at enormous sums here.

    The main thing that makes this policy much more affordable to EXOS than it would be to alternative suppliers is the reusability of the vehicle. This is the smallest reusable space vehicle ever built and that gives EXOS a very big advantage as it ramps up sub-orbital operations and pushes forward with their planned orbital vehicle. The latter may well prove to have a reusable mass fraction even larger than that of Falcon Heavy – a significant accomplishment.

    These are folks to watch. As an erstwhile avid follower of Armadillo Aerospace, I’m very pleased to see the Carmack legacy still alive and growing.