American aerospace startup Aevum has rolled out Ravn X, an unmanned aircraft designed to deliver small payloads into space.
Visually the Ravn X looks similar to many other conventional aircraft, barring the absence of a cockpit. The aircraft has a wingspan of 60 feet and an overall 80 feet long. The total takeoff weight of the aircraft is 55,00 lbs.
Although not capable of reaching orbit on its own, the aircraft is designed to take a small payload-carrying rocket to high altitude. Upon which the rocked is detached and launched from the mothership, which carries small payloads the rest of the way to space.
According to Aevum, the system provides several advantages over conventional rocket delivery systems. The vehicle uses commercial jet fuel and can operate from any conventional airport, drastically reducing operational costs. The company further claims Ravn X can also operate in "virtually any weather" and is " able to get small satellites to orbit in 180 minutes".
Jay Skylus, CEO of Aevum, stated that their goal is to reach a point where 95% of the launch system will be reusable soon.
The company has already acquired a 1 billion US Dollar contract from the US Space Force, which plans to used the Ravn X to deploy its ASLON-45 satellite in late 2021. They have also secured 20 more contracts with the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center. The ultimate goal of Aevum is to secure end-to-end logistics for launch services, including payload transportation and integration.