The journey toward launching from Cecil Spaceport into low Earth orbit is a parabola that took another step on Thursday afternoon when Aevum Inc. unveiled its autonomous launch vehicle.
The vehicle, called Ravn X, is the world’s largest unmanned aircraft system. it has the ability to launch satellites and other payloads up to 2,000 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. The 80-foot long, 18-foot high aircraft has a 60-foot wingspan and can reach speeds of 575 miles an hour.
Aevum has an operating and lease agreement with Cecil Spaceport.
Last year, the company was selected by the United States Space Force to provide launch and payload integration operations. Thursday, Aevum produced a demonstration of the vehicle that will take the payloads beyond the borders of our atmosphere.
Officials at Aevum and Cecil Spaceport said testing and launch services would be held in Jacksonville in 2021.
“Our mission at Aevum is to make space accessible for everybody,” Aevum founder and CEO JaySkylus said in a presentation. “That includes you. … This is just a starting point. As we push further and further and further. Autonomous launch will bring the cost of deploying things to orbit so far down, that it will literally be affordableto anyone.”
As Skylus noted how a user can customize its launch, he mentioned April 2021 three different times as a launch date.
Ravn X uses an autonomous launch architecture that Skylus described as a blend of aerospace technologies, tech and software. The architecture is comprised of six systems: a ground station network, cloud services, spaceports,logistics software and tech, and autonomous launch vehicle fleet as well as ground and launch support systems.
Todd Lindner, the director of Cecil Spaceport, said Thursday’s unveiling was big for Aevum and the spaceport.
“We have been talking with Aevum for quite some time,” Lindner said. “Jay and I have worked together for years. It’s good to see it coming to fruition from a different perspective.”
Ravn X can be housed in an 8,000 square-foot hangar, uses the same jet fuel as a commercial airline and needs a mile-long runway, Skylus said. Cecil Spaceport has all three.
Aevum’s founder stated the 55,000-pound vehicle will be 70% reusable. The company’s aim is to raise the reusable rate to 95%.
Aevum has more than $1 billion in contracts with the Space Force. Its first launch into low Earth orbit will be for the Space Force’s Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer 45 mission.
Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, applauded Aevum’s ability to use commercial technologies in its development of an autonomous launch vehicle. She said partnering with the private sector will enhance America’s national security.
“I’m excited to see the bold innovation and responsiveness in development today by our small launch industry partners to support emerging warfighter needs,” Rose said in a statement., “The U.S. Space Force is proactively partnering with industry to support U.S. space superiority objectives. Having a robust U.S. industry providing responsive launch capability is key to ensuring the U.S. Space Force can respond to future threats.”
Lindner is less concerned about threats and more focused on the development opportunities available in the River City.
“It’s very awesome to see 2021 coming around,” Lindner said. “I’m very excited, personally and professionally. I am happy for the community of Jacksonville. This is an opportunity to (not only) show our spaceport, but we area viable option to operate Space Force operations and that’s huge.”
Dec 4, 2020,
Jacksonville Business Journal