DAWN'S DIMINUTIVE DUTCH SPACEPLANE
Dawn Aerospace ($5.5m funding) unveiled their 'Dawn Mk-II Aurora' sub-orbital spaceplane this week. The 4.8m long aircraft is capable of speeds in excess of Mach 3, has a maximum takeoff weight of 280kg and is fuelled by high-test peroxide (HTP) / kerosene:
Aimed at the CubeSat launch market this vehicle is a stepping stone towards an 18m long Mk-III vehicle that will have the capability to deliver 50-100kg satellites to orbit.
Launches on the Mk-II vehicle are priced at $50,000 USD per flight with payload capability of three CubeSats or '3U'. The cargo can be flown up to an altitude of 50-80km eg. for mesospheric research and/or be exposed to a microgravity environment for up to three minutes. The Aurora Mk-II is said to be capable of conducting such flights multiple times per day. Flights can be booked via Darmstadt, Germany based Platform-as-a-Service brokers HOSTmi.
Taxi tests of the spaceplane are set to commence once New Zealand's lockdown restrictions are relaxed to 'Level Two' with suborbital flights anticipated to take place in Q4 2020, with commercial operations following in Q1 '21.
Alongside their spaceplane programme the company are commercialising novel CubeSat and SmallSat propulsion modules that utilise non-toxic nitrous oxide and propene propellants. They're pitched as an alternative to slow, power-hungry electrical systems or expensive and toxic chemically fuelled alternatives.
The company's 'SatDrive B20' thrusters - aimed at the SmallSat market - can be seen firing in the video below:
Dawn Aerospace have offices in both Delft in the Netherlands and Christchurch, New Zealand - from where they expect first flights to take-off, having signed an MOU with the Waitaki District Council for suborbital flights out of South Island's Oamaru Airport, situated near to the coast some 200km south-west of Christchurch.
You can order the company's CubeSat propulsion systems directly from their website for $42,000 - though a 6-month delivery time is currently quoted:
SmallSat propulsion thrusters are also available with a 6-month lead time, and start from $40,000 per 20 Newton thruster: