The idea of a space launch might usually conjure up images of a rocket blasting off vertically from the pad. But US-based firm Aevum is going to shake things up. They has just unveiled a massive drone called the Ravn X that is designed to act as an autonomous, airborne launch system for small satellites.
The biggest drone in the world called Ravn X can autonomously take off and land on runways as short as one mile (1.6 km) long and requires only 8,000 square feet (743 sq m) of hangar space. The giant is 80 ft (24 m) long, 18 ft (5.5 m) tall, has a wingspan of 60 ft (18 m) and uses the same jet fuel as a regular airplane. Aevum says the Ravn X is almost weather agnostic and can launch in nearly all conditions, while 70 percent of the drone is reusable, with the company eyeing something closer to full reusability down the track.
The Ravn X won’t require pilots onboard to operate, therefore removing the risk to human life. Safety issues aside, Aevum says a full fleet of autonomous RavnX vehicles will be capable of firing a payload into space every 180 minutes. “Aevum is completely reimagining access to space,” says Jay Skylus, founder and CEO of Aevum. “The current definition of rocket science doesn’t work for us. With Aevum, everyone will be able to say, ‘It is rocket science and I can do it.’ Aevum is pushing logistics to the next generation with software and automation technologies.”
Aevum may have just whipped the covers off its autonomous launch system, but says it has already earned more than US$1 billion in launch contracts. Among its customers is the US Space Force, which will use the Ravn X system to launch its ASLON-45 mission to place a set of small satellites in low Earth orbit. You can see the Ravn X move around the runway in the video below.