CADDO MILLS — The Caddo Mills Municipal Airport is about 300 miles from the NASA Mission Control Center in Houston and more than 750 miles from Spaceport America in New Mexico
But on a sunny Thursday morning, it is the location of a test of the latest technology in rocket ships.
EXOS Aerospace Systems & Technologies, Inc., based in Greenville and a leading developer of reusable space launch vehicles, conducted a “Hover Test” on Sept. 26 for the company’s SARGE Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicle.
As temperatures reached into the 90s, crews with the company, assisted by Luckett Crane Service, prepped the vehicle and gently lifted it into place in an area just off of one of the airport’s runways.
The hover test would involve firing the engines at about half-thrust, raising the ship a few feet and holding it there for a few moments before returning it back to the ground.
The only sounds came from a whirring generator, a drone which was being operated by Exos Chief Operating Officer John Quinn, and the instructions being announced via a public address system by the crew inside the company’s mobile command center, featuring the slogan “Space Available” on the exterior.
The countdown proceeded smoothly through fueling and pre-flight checks until, with about 20 minutes remaining, the process came to a halt as an issue developed with a fuel valve, which would need to be replaced.
Company officials announced the test was successfully completed later that day and that they would be compiling data from the rocket. Another test had been planned at the airport Tuesday morning.
Exos completed the Pathfinder Launch on Aug. 25, 2018 at the Spaceport America site It was the first step in validating the SARGE SRLV that was flown and recovered for reuse.
Exos Aerospace has since reused the SARGE vehicle two more times and is in final preparation for the vehicle’s fourth flight, which will carry commercial payloads.
Quinn said that test is also scheduled to take place at Spaceport America on Oct. 26.
A successful launch will help solidify the company’s plan to use the technology as the design basis of the company’s Jaguar orbital launch vehicle with a reusable first stage capable of carrying 200kg to Low Earth Orbit.
Additional information about Exos Aerospace is available at the company’s web site: exosaero.com