– UP Aerospace has decided to revise the design of its SpaceLoft XL suborbital rocket, which crashed during its maiden launch Sept. 25, and return to flight as early as April.


Shortly after liftoff from
New Mexico
‘s Spaceport
, the first SpaceLoft XL began to corkscrew, then crashed into the desert floor after 90 seconds of flight.


UP Aerospace, Inc., of Highlands Ranch, Colo., conducted a two-month anomaly-investigation process that spanned structural mechanics, aerodynamic analyses, on board flight systems, radar tracking data, optical tracking data, and a comprehensive study of the vehicle after it landed.


UP Aerospace President Jerry Larsen said the analysis showed that the rocket was not aerodynamically stable and that it had been incorrectly designed, preventing it from spinning fast enough during ascent.


When the SpaceLoft XL returns to flight it will have a fourth tail fin and an increased spin rate for stability, Larson said. The four fins also will be larger in size and shaped differently in response to the mishap findings from the first flight.


“There were no fins that fell off. The vehicle actually remained structurally intact throughout the entire flight … down to the ground,” Larson said. The rocket’s less than adequate spin rate, he added, meant that it could not correct for thrust-induced moments typical for a fixed-fin vehicle nosing to higher altitudes and reaching higher speeds.


Larson said that the next flight also will carry a comprehensive data sensor suite – built by
New Mexico
– to gather information about the correction actions taken in SpaceLoft XL’s return to flight.