Dawn Aerospace Spaceplane Ready for Rocket Powered Flight Using Jet Engines

Dawn Aerospace Spaceplane Ready for Rocket Powered Flight Using Jet Engines

Dawn Aerospace has completed 48 flights over the last 13 months of their spaceplane technology demonstrator, the Mk-II Aurora, to complete Phase One testing of the vehicle using surrogate jet engines. Tests of the vehicle under rocket power are expected before the end of the year.

Phase One demonstrated all non-rocket systems on the spaceplane, such as low-speed aerodynamic performance, pilot controllability, reliability, and general airworthiness. The spaceplane was flown as fast as 200 knots (370 km/h) and as high as 9000 ft. altitude, although high speed and altitude were not primary goals. 

“This test phase has shown that the basic design is extremely capable but, above all, safe. It was also a key step to show that the team is ready to take on the challenge of rocket-powered flight, "says CFO and Mk-II Chief Engineer James Powell

In Phase Two of the test program, the Mk-II Aurora will be fitted with a rocket motor which will allow for flights to over 100 km altitude and 3500 km/h. If achieved, it would be the first vehicle ever to reach space twice in a day—"a Wright Brothers moment for reusable spaceflight,” says Stefan Powell, CEO

The Mk-II is intended to prove the core technology needed for a fully and rapidly reusable first-stage booster. 

Once the Mk-II Aurora is proven under rocket power, a much larger Mk-III vehicle will be built, with the capability to deliver a 250 kg satellite into orbit using a second stage, released at high altitude. 

“Rapid reusability is the key to cost-effective spaceflight,” said Stefan Powell. “Operating under aviation law—with a vehicle that is an aircraft first and a rocket second—allows us to unlock the powers of fleet economics." We can replace an entire rocket factory with a few aircraft that operate daily. 

Phase One test flights were conducted under aircraft certification, specifically the Civil Aviation Authority Part 102. As of September, all test goals were achieved, including a “pseudo-rocket powered flight” where the aircraft was flown at full thrust and a high-pitch angle to a moderate altitude before having the engines intentionally set to idle, mimicking the main engine cut-off. Thereafter, the aircraft was brought to land using only maneuvers and air brakes to control airspeed, similar to what will be done after re-entry from a high altitude. 

Glide landings were repeated several times as part of the team’s final flight training before the spaceplane is fitted with the rocket motor. In addition to substantial simulator testing, these tests served as confirmation that the team was ready for rocket-powered flight.

“As a clean sheet design, there were naturally many aspects that were unproven." "The combination of simulation and real testing is critical in achieving a safe and successful campaign,” said James Powell. 

Phase one also demonstrated key operational aspects of the spaceplane, including rapid reusability, up to four flights in a day, and flights under aviation law. 

“We are on the path to revolutionizing how we access space." The ability to rapidly reuse a launch vehicle reduces costs by 90 percent. "It's the holy grail of affordable, frequent space flight,” says James Powell. 

The Mk-II rocket engine is a liquid propellant rocket motor developed by Dawn Aerospace. It uses non-cryogenic fuels like hydrogen peroxide and kerosene, which are storable in the aircraft without boiling off, unlike typical rocket fuels like liquid oxygen. The engine, which is in the final stages of qualification, is designed for rapid restarts without the replacement of igniters or other maintenance. 

Test flights of the Mk-II under rocket power are anticipated before the end of the year. 

Click here to learn more about the Dawn Aerospace Mk-II Aurora

Publisher: SatNow

GNSS Constellations - A list of all GNSS satellites by constellations


Satellite NameOrbit Date
BeiDou-3 G4Geostationary Orbit (GEO)17 May, 2023
BeiDou-3 G2Geostationary Orbit (GEO)09 Mar, 2020
Compass-IGSO7Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)09 Feb, 2020
BeiDou-3 M19Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M20Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)16 Dec, 2019
BeiDou-3 M21Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M22Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)23 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 I3Inclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Nov, 2019
BeiDou-3 M23Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019
BeiDou-3 M24Medium Earth Orbit (MEO)22 Sep, 2019


Satellite NameOrbit Date
GSAT0223MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0224MEO - Near-Circular05 Dec, 2021
GSAT0219MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0220MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0221MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0222MEO - Near-Circular25 Jul, 2018
GSAT0215MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0216MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0217MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017
GSAT0218MEO - Near-Circular12 Dec, 2017


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Kosmos 2569--07 Aug, 2023
Kosmos 2564--28 Nov, 2022
Kosmos 2559--10 Oct, 2022
Kosmos 2557--07 Jul, 2022
Kosmos 2547--25 Oct, 2020
Kosmos 2545--16 Mar, 2020
Kosmos 2544--11 Dec, 2019
Kosmos 2534--27 May, 2019
Kosmos 2529--03 Nov, 2018
Kosmos 2527--16 Jun, 2018


Satellite NameOrbit Date
Navstar 82Medium Earth Orbit19 Jan, 2023
Navstar 81Medium Earth Orbit17 Jun, 2021
Navstar 78Medium Earth Orbit22 Aug, 2019
Navstar 77Medium Earth Orbit23 Dec, 2018
Navstar 76Medium Earth Orbit05 Feb, 2016
Navstar 75Medium Earth Orbit31 Oct, 2015
Navstar 74Medium Earth Orbit15 Jul, 2015
Navstar 73Medium Earth Orbit25 Mar, 2015
Navstar 72Medium Earth Orbit29 Oct, 2014
Navstar 71Medium Earth Orbit02 Aug, 2014


Satellite NameOrbit Date
NVS-01Geostationary Orbit (GEO)29 May, 2023
IRNSS-1IInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)12 Apr, 2018
IRNSS-1HSub Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (Sub-GTO)31 Aug, 2017
IRNSS-1GGeostationary Orbit (GEO)28 Apr, 2016
IRNSS-1FGeostationary Orbit (GEO)10 Mar, 2016
IRNSS-1EGeosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)20 Jan, 2016
IRNSS-1DInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)28 Mar, 2015
IRNSS-1CGeostationary Orbit (GEO)16 Oct, 2014
IRNSS-1BInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)04 Apr, 2014
IRNSS-1AInclined Geosynchronous Orbit (IGSO)01 Jul, 2013