We have been making an effort to post more pictures and media lately, but have not been putting up a whole lot of technical info to explain what some of the stuff is, and where we are in our progress.
So, I intend to rectify that with this post.
The basic situation is as follows: We are currently tether-testing XA-0.1 and in parallel, we are building XA-0.2.
The status with XA-0.1 is that we have all basic systems working, and have narrowed down our lack of ability to attain stable flight to the control system. We have identified what we think is the major culprit and have made a change to correct it. We will be testing that shortly, if not today.
At the risk of sounding like another NewSpace company making claims about progress based on apparently failed tests, I will say that XA 0.1 has already accomplished most of it’s goals. It is easy to forget (and we do it, too) that XA 0.1 was only designed to test several basic things, among which are:
1.) The integration of our engine systems with a third party control system.
2.) The integration of our engines with our TVC system.
3.) The design of a vehicle propellant and pressurant system.
4.) The control of vehicle propellant and pressurant systems.
4.) Pilot interface systems.
5.) Vehicle based operations, as opposed to test-stand based operations.
6.) Fundamental architecture validation.
7.) Tethered hover.
It has, thusfar, succeed in all except #7. Of course, #7 is a pretty important one and one that we would all like to see – and soon, but it is important to remember that this vehicle has accomplished the majority of what it was designed for already. Those lessons and validations have been applied to the design and development of XA-0.2.
As we make changes to the control system, we expect to accomplish #7 within the next several weeks. Providing we can do so, we are still on track for XA-0.2 being ready for the X-prize cup this year.
Regarding XA-0.2, we are on schedule with it’s construction. By the time we’re done with all of the flight testing currently planned for XA-0.1, XA-0.2 will be sufficiently assembled to allow us to swap over the propulsion and controls systems with minimal delays.
In brief, XA-0.2 is a natural progression from XA-0.1. Utilizing a lightweight frame, larger propellant tanks, and lightweight pressurization system it is a much higher performance vehicle. The dry weight of XA-0.2 is within 100 lbs of XA-0.1, but is capable of 5x the propellant load (resulting in a 100% propellant load mass ratio of 2.5) . It uses legacy electronics and propulsion hardware to facilitate a rapid transition from XA-0.1 to XA-0.2 flight testing. Among other details, it has a more favorable inertia matrix allowing easier control as compared to it’s predecessor. This combined with the legacy hardware gives us confidence in our ability to get XA-0.2 operational within a short period of time following initial success of XA-0.1.
The XA-0.2 vehicle will be capable of approximately a 50% propellant load with legacy propulsion hardware. Further evolution of the vehicle past X-prize cup will include a 50% increase in engine thrust in order to utilize 100% propellant load for increased delta-v. This vehicle architecture will proceed through the next several iterations of the XA line, further expanding the flight and performance envelope until the architecture is no longer viable. At this point I should define architecture to mean a basic vehicle platform. Expanding the performance envelope within a given architecture would mean upgrading components without overhauling or re-designing the entire vehicle. An example would be, with XA-0.2, we can upgrade the propellant tank diameter without changing any fundamental components. This allows us to increase delta-v on an already functional vehicle without a complete re-design. While the XA-0.2 architecture is capable of enough delta-v to reach nearly 100 km, it lacks provisions for other components (specifically aerodynamic surfaces, retractable landing gear) necessary to do high altitude, high velocity flights.
If we can avoid any serious setbacks in our schedule (late vendors, accidents, etc), we will have XA-0.2 ready for competition at the X-prize cup this year. I’m not going to release our development schedule, but the time alloted for the various tasks necessary is not overly aggressive and I think gives us a high chance of success. Of course, if one of the companies manufacturing a key component decides to take 6 weeks instead of 2, for example, it will impede us significantly – however, we are being proactive about these issues and are doing everything we can to prevent delays.
And of course, a few more pictures.