Collin Arocho
21 September 2022

Dawn Aerospace has hit another major milestone. The Dutch-American-Kiwi (New Zealand) space company has announced the completion of phase-one testing of its spaceplane. According to the space transportation specialist, over the last 13 months, its demonstrator the MK-II Aurora has successfully completed 48 flights using surrogate jet engines to validate all non-rocket systems on the spaceplane, such as low-speed aerodynamic performance, pilot controllability, reliability and general airworthiness. Now the Yes!Delft startup is ready to move on to the next round of tests, using rocket power, which is expected to start before the end of the year.

Dawn Mk II
The MK-II Aurora. Credit: Dawn Aerospace

In phase two of the test program, the MK-II Aurora will be fitted with an in-house developed liquid-propelled rocket engine. It uses the non-cryogenic fuels hydrogen peroxide and kerosene, which are aircraft storable, unlike typical rocket fuels like liquid oxygen. This will power the spaceplane demonstrator through flights reaching over 100 km altitude and 3,500 km/h. The engine, which is in the final stages of qualification, is designed for rapid restarts without the replacement of igniters or other maintenance, which would prove the core technology needed for a fully and rapidly reusable first-stage booster. If achieved, it would be the first vehicle ever able to reach space twice a day.

“Rapid reusability is the key to cost-effective spaceflight,” says Dawn CEO Stefan Powell. “Operating under aviation law and with a vehicle that’s an aircraft first and a rocket second allows us to unlock the powers of fleet economics. We can replace an entire rocket factory with a few aircraft that operate daily.” Powell continues, “It’s a Wright Brothers moment for reusable spaceflight.”