Space Commerce

Mk-II Aurora Spaceplane Certified And Ready For Rocket-Powered Flight

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
Dawn Aerospace
March 26, 2023
Filed under , ,
Mk-II Aurora Spaceplane Certified And Ready For Rocket-Powered Flight
Mk-II Aurora Spaceplane
Dawn Aerospace

By Stefan Powell, CEO – I am excited to announce we have received certification from the Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand (CAA) for the imminent rocket-powered flight campaign of our Mk-II Aurora spaceplane.

The mission of the Mk-II Aurora is to fly to space twice in a day and, in doing so, demonstrate that rocket-powered systems can be as reusable as commercial aircraft. This marks the first time a remotely piloted, rocket-powered vehicle has been certified for flight out of a civil airport.

Certification as an aircraft is a crucial step towards our mission, as it allows us to operate without excluding other airspace users. This enables us to integrate with existing airspace and fly as frequently as the vehicle permits, rather than as often as we can clear the airspace.

In the past, utilising surrogate jet engines, we have achieved two flights within hours and four flights in a day. Rapid reusability is a key property that enables both swift iteration in development and unparalleled utility of the end product.

Aside from being a key technology demonstrator, the Mk-II holds significant commercial promise as a suborbital vehicle, spanning a wide range of applications such as earth monitoring, microgravity research, disaster management, and in-situ atmospheric measurements – providing unprecedented enhancements to weather and climate models.

Our team has been diligently designing and building the Mk-II Aurora spaceplane since 2018. We have completed 48 test flights using jet engines, validating all non-rocket systems.

We have now also concluded static integrated testing of the Mk-II Aurora engine. During the rocket engine’s development, it was fired 112 times, including seven instances where it was integrated with the vehicle.

With vehicle certification and integration testing completed, we are thrilled to announce that rocket-powered flights are set to begin within the next month.

Initial flights will continue to follow a build-up approach, as we have done in the past. The first flights will reach modest speeds and altitudes while aiming to maintain the rapid test cadence we have previously demonstrated using surrogate jet engines.

Exciting times ahead!

About Dawn Aerospace

We are a purpose-driven company focused on delivering real solutions to current problems while building in the key ingredients of long-term success – reusability and sustainability. Our long-term vision shapes how we act, build teams, and treat each other. With the long term always in mind, we make decisions that benefit us all.

We are developing vehicles to provide responsive, reusable, and low-cost space flight. The current single/low-use rockets for small satellite launches are expensive and infrequently available, and we believe that our vehicles will fundamentally change that.

As a leading provider of green propulsion systems for CubeSat, ESPA, and ESPA Grande-class satellites, we possess space-heritage and an understanding of how to achieve challenging engineering – one step at a time.

We are thrilled to be nearing this milestone flight campaign and look forward to sharing our learnings with the world. If you have any media inquiries, please reach out to us at

Media contacts
Catherine Moreau-Hammond, Dawn Aerospace,

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.