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The presentation comes amidst this year’s first manned space launch performed by a private company, SpaceX, which successfully delivered human crew to the International Space Station. CEO Elon Musk later stated that his company may send the first people to Mars by 2026, if not earlier.
The US private startup Aevum gave a presentation of its uncrewed drone, called Ravn X Autonomous Launch Vehicle, designed to fire rockets while in the air, that will shoot small satellites into earth orbit without the need for a launchpad. The presentation was held online on the company’s YouTube channel.
According to the show, hosted by the Aevum CEO Jay Skylus, the aircraft is designed to put satellites into space as frequently as every 2.5 hours. The drone looks closely similar to an ordinary aircraft and will fly like a real plane, taking off from any one-mile airstrip, without the need to operate the infrastructure of an expensive launch site.
The 24.3 meter (80 ft) aircraft has a wingspan of almost 18.3 meters (60 ft), is 5.4 meters (18 ft) tall and is the world’s largest Unmanned Aircraft by mass, weighing a staggering 25,000 kg (55,000 pounds) making it the largest drone to date.
Skylus stated that once a RavnX reaches its location and altitude, it drops a rocket that launches the actual load of an approximate 100 kg mass into low-Earth orbit. After delivering the load, the drone autonomously lands and parks itself in a hangar.
“US leadership has identified the critical need for extremely fast access to low Earth orbit”, Skylus said. “Through our autonomous technologies, Aevum will shorten the lead time of launches from years to months, and when our customers demand it, minutes. This is necessary to improve lives on Earth. This is necessary to save lives”.
Aevum is a private entity based in Alabama and has reportedly been awarded over $1 billion in government contracts.
In June 2016, Skylus, a physicist, founded the company, which currently has around 180 employees, after a few years of working for NASA and several commercial space companies such as Boeing and Firefly Aerospace.
Aevum aims to launch its first orbital mission next year.