Armadillo STIG-A Test Launch Marred by Ballute Failure

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Armadillo Aerospace said a balloon parachute recovery system malfunctioned following an otherwise successful Jan. 28 launch of a STIG-A reusable rocket from New Mexico, causing the privately built rocket’s body and nose cone to make a hard landing.

Despite the failure of the balloon parachute system — known as a ballute — Armadillo officials said the test launch accomplished its primary mission, which was to determine the booster’s maximum performance capability following several modifications that had been made since a December flight of the same vehicle.

“The STIG A-3 mission was the next incremental step in development of a truly reusable suborbital spacecraft,” said Neil Milburn, vice president of program management at Heath, Texas-based Armadillo. “As such, the supersonic ballute-drogue was just one face of this complex vehicle that was being tested at Spaceport America.”

The STIG-A rocket reached an altitude of 82 kilometers before falling back to Earth. The rocket body, nose cone and ballute all were recovered on Spaceport America property, Armadillo said in a Feb. 1 statement.

The mission was the third test launch of Armadillo’s STIG-A rocket from the spaceport’s vertical launch complex. The test flight was not publicly announced in advance, or open to public observers.

Armadillo is building a follow-on vehicle, STIG-B, that it hopes to launch this spring to an altitude of 100 kilometers.