Golden, Colorado: Lockheed Martin's second test flight of a prototype reusable launch system failed with the craft going out of control and becoming seriously damaged, rendering it unusable. The test, conducted 12 August, saw the winged craft take off from a launch rail under its own power and fly for some 12.5 seconds of a planned flight of less than a minute before it crashed.
According to Al Simpson, acting director, Advanced Programs, Human Space Flight for Lockheed Martin Space Systems, "We're investigating right now...to ascertain what happened,'' Simpson said. "We're going to go off and look and see what happened and then crank that back into our next flight," he said.
"We have another vehicle that's nearly ready to go. We'll learn from Tuesday's flight and take corrective actions," Simpson said.
The flight took place at the proposed site of Spaceport America outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The 200-pound (91 kg) vehicle reached its planned altitude of roughly 1,500 feet (457 meters). It is 8 feet (2.4 meters) long with a wingspan of about 6 feet (1.8 meters) and is roughly one-fifth in scale. It is being flown to develop techniques and procedures for quick launch, ease of operations and low cost access to space.
The reusable vehicle will take off like a rocket and land like a plane.
Regarding the scale of the craft, Simpson said that his team would want to test fly the model one more time by the end of next year. "The philosophy is to test a little, fly a little...and buy down the risk." Eventually, test flights of the sub-scale model will lead to the development of a full-size vehicle that will lower costs of lofting satellites into Earth orbit.