UPHAM, N.M., 3 Feb. 2012. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) personnel launched a STIG-A rocket designed and built by Armadillo Aerospace engineers from Spaceport America's vertical launch complex. Armadillo Aerospace’s research-and-development test flight enabled company engineers to test proprietary, advanced launch technologies.
Flight data indicates that the rocket achieved a maximum altitude of approximately 82 kilometers (roughly 50 miles). A failure of the ballute (balloon-parachute) recovery system meant the GPS-steerable main parachute could not be deployed as intended; however, the vehicle was recovered within the predicted operating area and the nose cone and ballute were separately recovered intact on the Spaceport property.
The same vehicle flew on 4 Dec. 2011, demonstrating the feasibility of a reusable rocket, explains Neil Milburn, vice president of program management for Armadillo Aerospace. “The altitude achieved in this second flight was approximately twice that of the earlier flight and again tested many of the core technologies needed for the proposed manned reusable suborbital vehicle.”
The rocket-mounted camera captured spectacular views of the Rio Grande valley that await future private astronauts.
The next incremental step for Armadillo Aerospace will be a 100-kilometer (roughly 62 mile)-plus "space shot" with the successor vehicle, STIG-B, provisionally scheduled to launch in early spring from Spaceport America.