German space plane company completes test program of prototype

The German space plane company Polaris Spaceplanes had now completed a 15-flight test program of the small prototype of its planned orbital and suborbital spaceplane.

The test-flights took place over the course of three days, between Aug. 22 and Sep. 8, and were meant to demonstrate the vehicle’s aerodynamics and flight control systems in preparation for a larger-scale spaceplane prototype the company plans to equip with a linear aerospike rocket engine.

MIRA-Light measures just 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) long, and flies using four electric fans. For 10 of MIRA-Light’s 15 flights, the mini-spaceplane was equipped with a mock aerospike engine to simulate its impact on vehicle performance. In total, the prototype accumulated about 40 total minutes of flight time, according to a report from European Spaceflight.

What makes this project interesting is its use of an aerospike engine, a rocket-engine concept that has been around for decades but never successfully implemented. If successful here, it will make the engines of Polaris’ spaceplane very efficient.

The company now plans a series of test programs using prototypes of increasing size, leading to flying its full-scale hypersonic space plane Aurora on commercial suborbital and orbital flights in ’26 or ’27.

Aerospike engine ready for ground tests

Capitalism in space: A demonstrator aerospike rocket engine being developed by ARCA Space is now ready [pdf] for ground tests.

The system will perform a series of ground tests that will ultimately qualify the engine for flight. After the ground tests, the same engine will be integrated into the Demonstrator 3 rocket that will perform a suborbital space flight up to an altitude of 120 km above the New Mexico desert. It will be the first ever flight of a linear aerospike engine and the first ever space flight of an aerospike engine.

Based on the results from these tests the company then intends to build a single-stage-to-orbit small rocket that they hope to fly by 2018.

Go to the company’s news website here to see some good images of the engine and the aerospike nozzle. It does not look like any typical rocket engine. If this effort is successful it will as significant a technological improvement to rocketry as SpaceX’s recovery and reuse of its Falcon 9 first stage.

New smallsat rocket company plans first flight of aerospike engine

ARCA Aerospace has announced that it will perform the first test flight reaching space of an aerospike rocket engine this coming August.

ARCA Space Corporation has announced the first test-launch of its Demonstrator 3 space vehicle at Spaceport America in August. This will mark the first space flight of an aerospike rocket engine. Aerospike rocket engines are described as significantly more fuel efficient than the current engines and could make launches attempting to bring satellite payloads to space more affordable. Demonstrator 3 will perform a suborbital space flight up to an altitude of 100 kilometers above the New Mexico desert.

Their goal is to build a rocket they have dubbed Haas 2CA for the smallsat industry.

There is an interesting video at the link from the company showing their engineers hand-building this first suborbital test rocket, which the company also says is the first of a weekly series leading up to the test launch. More information about the company can be found at their website. According to their schedule, they hope to make the first orbital flight in 2018, and begin commercial operations by the end of that year.