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Armadillo Aerospace has precision landings down pat

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December 23, 2012

Armadillo Aerospace's STIG-B floats into a GPS-guided soft landing

Armadillo Aerospace's STIG-B floats into a GPS-guided soft landing

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Armadillo Aerospace has taken some major strides with its FAA-approved suborbital rocket, the STIG-B. Despite encountering difficulties reaching design altitude during testing, the company appears to have mastered the landing side of the equation using a self-guided ramair parachute system. A flight on December 6 returned the rocket to within 55 meters (180 ft) of the intended recovery point.

Armadillo's STIG-B is intended to lift 50 kg (110 lbs) of payload to an altitude in excess of 100 km (62 miles). During the recent launch, an early abort prevented reaching the projected altitude. However, the Wamore GPS guided recovery system worked nearly flawlessly (nearly because the landing flare was late), steering the spent rocket back to the launch site.

The recovery system sees the nose of the rocket ejected along with the ballute (i.e. ballon-parachute) when the guided parachute is deployed. This choice was made to avoid the possibility that the nose cone and its attaching lines could tangle with the main parachute. There is an APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting System) mounted in the nose cone, which relays GPS locations and allows the nose cone to be easily tracked for recovery using a smartphone GPS locator app.

As you can see in the video below, the STIG-B lands on the nozzle edge of the rocket engine. While this is a somewhat unusual choice, the rocket engine is, after all, one of the strongest structures on the fuselage.

Source: Armadillo Aerospace on YouTube

About the Author
Brian Dodson From an early age Brian wanted to become a scientist. He did, earning a Ph.D. in physics and embarking on an R&D career which has recently broken the 40th anniversary. What he didn't expect was that along the way he would become a patent agent, a rocket scientist, a gourmet cook, a biotech entrepreneur, an opera tenor and a science writer.   All articles by Brian Dodson
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