GENOA, Nev. — Exos Aerospace, a Texas company developing a reusable suborbital rocket, now plans to carry out a first flight of its vehicle in late August as it sets its sights on a follow-on orbital vehicle.
In a statement, the company said it's planning a launch of its Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE, or SARGE, rocket Aug. 25 from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The vehicle is a reusable sounding rocket capable of carrying up to 50 kilograms to the edge of space and back, although the company didn't disclose the payload for this initial "pathfinder" mission.
"We are excited to enter into the testing phase of our SARGE platform at Spaceport America," John Quinn, chief operating officer of Exos Aerospace, said in a statement. "We look forward to enabling space research, manufacturing, and educational opportunity for the world by providing frequent flights that provide fast and affordable access to space." [Blue Origin's Sweet Spot: An Untapped Suborbital Market for Private Spaceflight]
The company, which received a commercial launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation in February, originally planned to carry out the first SARGE launch in early April. However, problems with the inertial measurement units (IMUs) in the rocket postponed the launch several times.
In an Aug. 11 email, Quinn said that the company believes it's resolved the problems with its IMUs after repairing several of the devices. "I find it ironic that one of the most expensive and hardened pieces we purchase is largely the hindrance to our progress," he said.
Exos has pitched SARGE as an economical suborbital vehicle capable of a large number of reflights. Quinn has said in the past that the company saw significant demand for suborbital research and education flights, and hoped a successful SARGE test flight can make the company eligible for NASA's Flight Opportunities program for launching suborbital payloads.
Exos, though, also has plans for an orbital vehicle. In the statement, the company said it is working on the design of a small orbital launch vehicle called Jaguar. The vehicle would be capable of placing 100 to 200 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The vehicle's first stage is intended to be reusable.
Jaguar will build on the technology developed for SARGE, and will also make use of flight code developed by NASA for its Morpheus lander technology demonstration program, which it says it obtained through a Space Act Agreement. Exos is working with several other companies, including Intuitive Machines, C-Squared Systems, Helios and XISP, Inc. to modify the Morpheus code to work on its vehicles.
"Since our SARGE rocket is designed for reusability, it is proving to be an excellent risk mitigation platform for our orbital technology development program and helping to drive space access costs down," Quinn said in the statement.
This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.
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Jeff Foust is a Senior Staff Writer at SpaceNews, a space industry news magazine and website, where he writes about space policy, commercial spaceflight and other aerospace industry topics. Jeff has a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and earned a bachelor's degree in geophysics and planetary science from the California Institute of Technology. You can see Jeff's latest projects by following him on Twitter.