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Dawn Aerospace has unveiled its newest rocket-propelled spaceplane. The Yes!Delft startup, which holds its headquarters in Christchurch, New Zealand, pulled back the cover on its Mk-II Aurora suborbital spaceplane. The unveiling comes as the aerospace company heads into an intensive 12-month flight test campaign where it will use this second-generation test vehicle to prove the readiness and capability of its technology.
The rocket-powered Mk-II Aurora has the capability of flying at more than 100km in altitude at the Kármán line, which serves as the border to outer space. This first-of-its-kind spaceplane can then return to the earth and land at any airport, before being refueled and setting off again, multiple times a day – demonstrating the core technology for daily access to space in a subscale vehicle. The aircraft has a modest payload capacity, only enough to bring scientific experiments to space, but too little for an orbital second stage. The later generation Mk-III will use a similar design, but will have larger payload capacity – allowing a 50-100kg satellite to be delivered to orbit.
“The Aurora represents a massive step forward in space transportation,” says Stefan Powell, CTO of Dawn Aerospace. “Using the same vehicle hundreds or even thousands of times means we don’t need a factory to produce rockets. We can operate a fleet of vehicles to access space daily. And we don’t have to pollute the ocean with rocket debris as we do it.”