As had been rumored for several months now, Armadillo Aerospace is currently inactive. Jeff Foust at NewSpace Journal reports that company is essentially out of money and is currently in “hibernation.”
“The situation that we’re at right now is that things are turned down to sort of a hibernation mode,” Carmack said Thursday evening at the QuakeCon gaming conference in Dallas. “I did spin down most of the development work for this year” after the crash, he said.
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?
Armadillo Aerospace successful launched its STIG-B rocket from Spaceport America earlier today. However, some sort of abort occurred during the flight, so it’s not clear how high it reached. The objective was to send the payload above 100 kilometers, the boundary of space.
Armadillo founder John Carmack has Tweeted some updates:
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.
Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace answered questions from reporters after the announcement that the FAA has granted the Texas-based company a reusable launch license for the STIG-B rocket. Here is a summary:
FAA license for reusable STIG-B flights is for two years
First STIG-B flight set for Aug. 25 – 26
Two experiments on first flight — one from Germany on how particles behave, the other from Purdue University on injecting one liquid into another
STIG-B rocket is 20 inches in diameter and 34 feet long (STIG-A was 15 inches in diameter and 30 feet long)
STIG-B capable of launching payloads of 50 kg (110 pounds) to 100 kilometers suborbital altitude
Goal is to fly STIG-B rockets once per month (24 launches)
STIG-B is a testbed for technology to be used on suborbital human space vehicle
Philosophy is to fly tech as often as possible and to do it on cost-effective rockets
Human suborbital program depends upon the success of STIG-B
Human vehicle will have 8 rockets
STIG-A flew under a FAA waiver
Cannot fly STIG-B under waiver because they will be flying commercial payloads
Have spent a small fortune on Honeywell sensors to carefully measure the precise mico-gravity environment on flights
SANTA CLARA, Calif. (Armadillo PR) — At Newspace 2012 hosted by the Space Frontier Foundation in Santa Clara CA, Dr. George Nield, Associate Administrator for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation, presented Neil Milburn, Armadillo Aerospace’s VP of Program Management,with an Operator Launch License for their STIG (Suborbital Transport with Inertial Guidance) class of reusable suborbital launch vehicles. This is Armadillo Aerospace’s first launch license although they have already received three launch permits for their lunar lander class vehicles.