Aevum unveiled a 28-ton unmanned aerial system (UAS) Ravn X designed to launch small payloads to orbit.
Ravn X is a symbiosis between big drone aircraft and a rocket-launching platform. It will be the largest UAS by mass to designed to deliver satellites to space as fast as every 180 minutes.
The UAS is 80 feet long, has a wingspan of 60 feet, and stands 18 feet tall. It's not the largest UAV by size - the wings of Northrop Grumman's MQ-4C Triton stretch nearly 131 feet. It weighs 55,000 pounds (nearly 25,000 kg) inclusive of a rocket that will drop out of its belly mid-air and shoot a satellite into space. While in flight it will release a two-stage rocket that can launch 100-500kg of payload into low-Earth orbit. It uses JetA a very common kerosene-based fuel.
The air launch method is different from Northop’s Pegasus or Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, as the vehicle is not dropping the rocket but rather accelerating it up through the atmosphere.
In addition, the UAV doesn’t require a launch site. It only needs a runway that is one mile long and a hangar.
The Ravn X will be ready for operations within the next 18 months after it clears regulatory hurdles, says Jay Skylus, CEO of Aevum.
Aevum says new project is already profitable and generating revenue, with its first launch for the U.S. Space Force’s ASLON-45 mission in late 2021. Awarded last year, the $4.9 million project’s goal is to fly small, experimental satellites that can detect adversaries' missile launches.