Exos Aerospace, a Greenville-based aerospace engineering company, completed a successful hover and tether test of a new carbon composite tank for its BLK3 rocket. These tanks will be employed for use on an upcoming lunar lander mission.
The company, which specializes in the production of reusable rockets, is one of only three in the nation with a rocket licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration and one of 12 with an active launch license, according to its website. It is also one of NASA’s flight service providers.
Exos announced in a Facebook post on September 13 that it had successfully tested a rocket at Caddo Mills Municipal Airport. Video footage of the test shows the rocket suspended by a crane as flames are blasted into the ground.
“This is a reduced throttle run,” said John Quinn, co-founder and CEO of Exos Aerospace, according to NBC 5 DFW. “It’ll be 60% throttle on the first test and 70% on the second test, so not what it would do to go to space, but a pretty powerful rocket test.”
Five students from Purdue University traveled to Texas to participate in the rocket test. The students tested heat shields covered in paint that changed color based on the temperature of the rocket exhaust.
Purdue has worked with Exos before, having sent a payload on the company’s first reuse flight.
One of the Purdue students, Fiona Elliott, told NBC 5 that “weight equals money” when launching a lander and that, ideally, such payloads would weigh as little as possible.
Elliot explained that the test is meant to simulate a lunar lander’s leg, testing the temperature that the rocket will reach when operating.
“So currently what people have been using for lunar lander legs, is just the strongest and most heat-protected material that’s available. We’re trying to see the least expensive material you could get, without risking damage to the vehicle itself,” said Elliot, according to NBC 5.
Ken Ruffin, president of the National Space Society of North Texas, told NBC 5 that it is not often that a rocket test occurs in the North Texas region and that he hopes to work with NASA one day.
“For those of us who are passionate about humanity’s future in space, any sort of progress that can be made with rocket engine development, rocket engine improvements, is always a good thing,” said Ruffin, per NBC 5.
Exos’ competitors have also conducted rocket systems tests in Texas.
Blue Origin tested its BE-4 engine at its facility in Van Horn, Texas, in June when a catastrophic failure caused the rocket to explode, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.