WASHINGTON — Armadillo Aerospace, the Heath, Texas-company gunning to fly NASA-funded suborbital payloads on its reusable STIG-B rocket, conducted a Nov. 3 test launch in New Mexico that  fell short of expectations

Spaceport America’s technical director, Bill Gutman, told the Las Cruces Sun-News that Armadillo’s STIG-B did not reach its target height.

The Armadillo team had been shooting for an altitude of 100 kilometers — the boundary of space — on this flight, which was the company’s third R&D launch from Spaceport America this year.

Armadillo founder John Carmack said via Twitter: “The Armadillo rocket launch aborted early again today. Recovery was successful, but we need to rework some systems before next flight.”

An Oct. 6 launch of the STIG-B was also marred by an early abort. “Armadillo flight at Spaceport America hit an abort limit, but the recovery system functioned properly, so the vehicle is safe,” Carmack tweeted at the time. “Need to analyze data and fix a couple things, will fly again in a couple weeks.”

A Jan. 28 launch of the smaller STIG-A reached an altitude of 82 kilometers, but the otherwise successful launch was marred by the failure of its balloon parachute recovery system, which caused the rocket’s body and nose cone to make a hard landing.

STIG stands for Suborbital Transport with Inertial Guidance. The U.S. Federal Aviation Adminstration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation awarded Armadillo a two-year commercial operator launch license for the rocket in July. The Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 launches were part of Armadillo’s attempt to demonstrate the STIG-B to potential customers and to qualify to carry research payloads under NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

Weekend Spaceport America launch deemed “partial’ success (Las Cruces Sun-News, Nov. 5, 2012)

Brian Berger is editor in chief of SpaceNews.com and the SpaceNews magazine. He joined SpaceNews.com in 1998, spending his first decade with the publication covering NASA. His reporting on the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident was...