Press Release

First Roton ATV Translational Flight Test Successful

By SpaceRef Editor
October 18, 1999
Filed under

Vehicle Flies 4,300 feet at over 50 mph

MOJAVE, Calif., October 18, 1999—Rotary Rocket Company’s Roton ATV
(Atmospheric Test Vehicle) approach and landing demonstrator made its first translational
(forward) flight in the envelope expansion flight program, flying 4,300 feet along a Mojave
airport runway, at 07:23 am PDT, Tuesday October 12, 1999. The ATV had previously
been rolled-out for flight on October 6, 1999, but that flight had been cancelled due to
poor weather conditions. This time the weather at Mojave Airport was perfect with a clear
blue sky and no wind. The 65 feet tall by 22 feet diameter conical vehicle was piloted by a
two person crew comprising the pilot, Dr. Marti Sarigul-Klijn, Cmdr. USN-Ret and
Roton Chief Engineer, with Brian Binnie, Cmdr. USN-Ret. and Roton Flight Test
Director, as copilot. Both crew members are highly qualified and experienced flight test
pilots.


The flight, the second in the envelope expansion flight test program for the Roton ATV
and the third flight overall, was a low altitude translational (forward) flight south to north
along Runway 30-12 at Mojave. This flight was to demonstrate the ability of the Roton
ATV to fly at varying speeds under full control in a forward direction—exactly the same
mode of flying that would be needed by a returning space vehicle maneuvering to land at
an airport. In technical terms, the test was to investigate the longitudinal stability and
control characteristics of the Roton ATV in forward flight.


During the test, the ATV reached a maximum altitude of 75 feet above the Mojave
runway and a maximum ground speed of approximately 53 miles per hour and flew a
total of 4,300 feet along the runway. All values were within parameters planned for the
flight. Observers along the flight path noted that “The ATV thundered past them like an
express train—a truly awesome experience!” All flight test requirements were exceeded and
exceptionally good flight data was obtained. Preliminary analysis of the flight data obtained
shows good correlation with the ATV’s integral hardware-in-the-loop simulator and the
flight data will be used to further fine-tune the simulator.


After the translation portion of the flight, the pilots used their remaining fuel allowance to
maintain a sustained, controlled, hover before touching down gently, once again
demonstrating the ATV’s ability to execute precision, soft, landings. The total test duration
from rotor start to rotor stop was 9 minutes 45 seconds. The total flight time was 3
minutes 47 seconds, of which 1 minute 50 seconds was in forward flight and 1 minute 57
seconds was spent in hover at the end of the flight. The total accumulated flight time on
the ATV is now 6 minutes and 27 seconds


During the debriefing, the pilots commented that a key factor in the success of the flight
was their ability to plan and rehearse the flight on the ATV’s integral hardware-in-the-loop
simulator prior to flight. They said that while the ATV was not at all hard to fly, it was
significantly different to any existing rotorcraft or aircraft, so practice was required
beforehand in order to fly the test profile smoothly.


The primary function of the Roton ATV is to demonstrate the operational viability of
vertically landing a returning space vehicle using a tip thruster powered rotor-blade landing
system. The Roton ATV is similar in concept to the Space Shuttle Enterprise that NASA
built and flew to test the orbiter’s landing characteristics before proceeding to build
space-worthy version Space Shuttles. The ATV flight test program will verify the Roton’s
pilot-guided approach and landing capability over a range of flight regimes.


Gary C. Hudson, President and CEO of Rotary Rocket Company said after the successful
conclusion of the flight, “An extremely successful and impressive test. There is now no
doubt in our minds, or in the minds of those present at the test, that the Roton does fly
and, in fact, it flies very well.” Hudson added that “The quality of the flight data obtained
from this flight is such that it may well be possible to reduce the scale of the ATV flight
test program without compromising results. This is an important consideration for a small
company such as ours operating within our budget constraints.” He went on to
congratulate the flight crew and other employees of Rotary Rocket Company for their
superb efforts in completing the flight successfully.


Rotary Rocket Company’s Roton piloted reusable space vehicle will serve the
telecommunications satellite market, a more than $30 billion market, at a fraction of the
price of existing commercial expendable rockets. The Roton will enter into commercial
service in 2001. Rotary Rocket Company has offices in Redwood City, California, Mojave,
California and Washington D.C.


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Visit our
What’s Hot Feature to view video clips and
photographs from the flight test.


Contact:
Geoffrey V. Hughes, Vice President of Sales & Marketing
Rotary Rocket Company
650-298-3305
[email protected]

SpaceRef staff editor.