CloudIX joins race to develop small rocket

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CloudIX, a startup based in Hayward, California, plans to conduct its first test flight in December of a prototype balloon-launched rocket designed to send cubesats into low Earth orbit.

CloudIX hangar in Hayward, California. Credit: CloudIX
CloudIX hangar in Hayward, California. Credit: CloudIX

With the initial test, CloudIX (pronounced Cloud Nine) intends to demonstrate its launch capability and show that subsystems including communications, navigation and telemetry work as intended, Brandon Mairs, CloudIX co-founder and chief executive, told SpaceNews.

CloudIX is developing its own thrust vectoring system and purchasing solid rocketmotors to send 16 cubesats or one 22-kilogram satellite into low Earth orbit. The firm plans to purchase high-altitude balloons from existing manufacturers, who Mairs declined to name.

CloudIX has applied to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for a license to operate its trailer-based mobile deployment and launch operations center on the U.S. East Coast to send high-altitude balloons with attached rocket-launching platforms over the Atlantic Ocean. Once the balloons reach an altitude of 41 kilometers, the rockets will fire to send satellites to orbits of around 350 kilometers.

In the future, CloudIX intends to seek permission to perform similar operations from Mexico and South America to give customers access to a wide variety of orbital planes.

To keep costs low, CloudIX relies on 3D printing to produce rocket segments using a polymer composite that can withstand high temperatures while being ablative enough to disintegrate on reentry.
“The advantage of this method is rapid production, light weight, size scalability and most importantly low cost,” he added.

To date, Mairs and his CloudIX co-founders have provided funding for the venture. “We are boot-strapping our way along,” Mairs said.

Prior to founding CloudIX, Mairs founded Arubixs, a startup that developed a portable, flexible, shatterproof, waterproof smartphone.