Aevum, Inc., an Alabama upstart, announced on December 4, 2020, that its largest drone — Ravn X — is the world’s largest drone, and that it will serve as a rocket launch vehicle for a two-stage rocket that would place low-earth orbit satellites in space.
The vehicle is 80 feet long with a wingspan of 60 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of an astonishing 55,000 pounds — about the size of a jet aircraft. It is not surprising, therefore, that is what it looks like, with its super aerodynamic design.
The Ravn X is primarily about the payload, because it takes a tremendous amount of energy that is required for a ground launch to even a lower earth orbit, whether it is something big or something small. The reason for this is that any launch means reaching an altitude of at least 100 – 625 miles. In addition, it is necessary to fly at an angle for the cargo to be launched into orbit.
In contrast to such an immense effort, it is much more practical to take a small rocket and strap it to the belly of an aircraft. Get the aircraft — Ravn X — as high as 60,000 feet (its service ceiling) and then drop or release the rocket. At that point the Ravn X will ignite within half a second, and launch a roughly 220 lb payload into low-earth orbit.
This not only saves a huge amount of energy, but it also saves a lot of money needed to build an infrastructure, which is required for a traditional ground launch.
The Ravn X can reach speeds of 575 mph and can fly as high as 100-625 miles. It is designed to carry small, low-earth-orbit satellites, and like traditional aircraft, it is designed to take off and land on a one-mile-long runway.
The space tourism company — Virgin Galactic — is using this same concept in which they will carry SpaceShipTwo to a similar height before it is released and the rocket engine fires.
The impetus behind the company, Aevum, is to help provide and democratize communications tools around the world, which means internet access to people who need it the most.
According to Jay Skylus, the CEO and founder of Aevum:
- “Called Ravn X, the 55,000-pound UAV is designed to drop a rocket launch in midair, which will shoot small satellites into orbit.
- The US Air Force picked Aevum to fly a $4.9 million satellite mission in 2021. Aevum has also contracted a commercial mission.
- His company’s aiming to launch customers’ satellites within three hours of receiving them at a spaceport.
- ‘We are not just a launch company — I can’t emphasize that enough.’”*
Aevum is presenting a “new paradigm of access to space,” Skylus said. He added, “There’s now ground launch, air launch, and autonomous launch.”*
Aevum’s Ravn X, the world’s largest drone — is 80 feet long with a wingspan of 60 feet and a maximum takeoff weight of an astonishing 55,000 pounds — will serve as a rocket launch vehicle for a two-stage rocket that would place low-earth orbit satellites in space.
Understandably, the U.S. Air Force has contracted Aevum to fly a $4.9 million satellite mission in 2021, in addition to having also contracted a commercial mission. In fact, his company is also planning to launch satellites for customers within three hours of receiving them at a spaceport.
It is no wonder that the CEO of Aevum, Jay Skylus, pointed out that his company is “being credited with having invented a brand new paradigm of access to space.”*