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.
The launch will take place from Spaceport America in New Mexico and will be the first licensed launch from the Spaceport although Armadillo Aerospace has launched four earlier flights under the FAA’s Class III waiver regime. The last of these flights with STIG A reached 95-km setting the stage for the space capable STIG B vehicles.
Milburn complimented Dr. Nield on AST’s performance in processing the license application. “Allowed 180-days by law, the review team at AST granted the license in just 63-days, setting a new record” said Milburn. “This successfully exemplifies AST’s dual role of ensuring public safety but at the same time promoting the commercial launch industry.”
NASA Forum comment – The Stig-III doesn’t appear to be orbital-capable (not enough stages or the right staging ratio for a pressure-fed to get orbital), more like a high-suborbital like a traditional multi-stage sounding rocket but serving also as a platform for testing staging techniques (something I don’t think they’ve done before).
With the license in hand, Armadillo Aerospace plans to launch commercial payloads into suborbital space on the STIG B rocket and return them to Earth. The company also hopes to serve NASA’s suborbital rocket launch needs for the space agency’s Flight Opportunities Program. The first mission, dubbed STIG B-1, could launch by Aug. 25 or 26. It will carry microgravity experiments for Purdue University and company Vega Space, Milburn said.
Armadillo Aerospace’s STIG-B rocket stands 35 feet tall (10.6 meters), is about 20 inches wide (51 centimeters) and uses liquid oxygen and ethanol for fuel. It is designed to launch 110-pound (50 kg) experiment payloads to an altitude of 62 miles (100 kilometers), experience three minutes of weightlessness, and then deploy a supersonic balloon parachute — called a ballute – to protect it as it re-enters Earth’s atmosphere
STIG A Launch Video