Exos Aerospace successfully recovered the SARGE launch vehicle over the weekend following a launch anomaly that forced the mission to be aborted seconds after liftoff.
The Suborbital Autonomous Rocket with GuidancE (SARGE) was launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico at about 18:00 UTC on June 29. Seconds after launch, the rocket appeared to lose control and the cameraman soon lost it in the sky. Controllers managed to reestablish some control and abort the flight deploying the vehicle’s parafoil and venting fuel to reduce weight as it drifted back down to Earth. Approximately 14 minutes after liftoff, the rocket touched down safely within view of the launch pad.
“Obviously, we had a performance challenge on our gimble control for one reason or the other,” explained co-founder and COO John Quinn following the recovery of the rocket. “Very very sad day. However, any day that you recover a rocket, it is a good day.”
Saturday’s launch was the third SARGE mission with previous flights launched in August 2018 and March of this year. Both previous flights suffered some issues that prevented the vehicle from achieving its maximum altitude. However, the third was the first time the issues were this severe.
In the buildup to the launch, Quinn explained that Exos had worked hard to address the issues from previous flights. He noted that the company had identified and incorporated 93 lessons learned from the last launch into the vehicle. It appears there are still more lessons to be learned.
The rocket was carrying educational, research and technology demonstration payloads for nine customers. Payloads onboard included a biomedical experiment for the Mayo Clinic and a dust aggregation experiment from the University of Central Florida. It is currently unclear whether the payloads were recovered and if can be reflown on another mission if they were.