At Stoke Space’s test site in Moses Lake, Washington, the company successfully conducted a vertical takeoff and vertical landing (VTVL) developmental test flight of the firm’s reusable, second stage rocket.
During this test — known as Hopper2 — Stoke Space was able to successfully launch the Hopper test vehicle to an altitude of 30 feet and land at its planned landing zone following 15 seconds of flight. The test successfully demo’d the novel hydrogen/oxygen engine, regeneratively cooled heat shield as well as the differential throttle thrust vector control system, avionics, software, and ground systems.
This test was the last test in the Hopper technology demo program. All of the planned objectives were successfully completed and, also proven, was that the firm’s novel approach to robust and rapidly reusable space vehicles is technically sound. An incredible amount of data was captured that will enable the company to confidently evolve the vehicle design from a technology demonstrator to a reliable reusable space vehicle.
With this test campaign, several industry milestones were also attained: Stoke conducted the first flight test of a reusable VTVL rocket that uses differential throttling for attitude control — the first flight test of a reentry vehicle that uses an active regeneratively cooled heat shield — and, although this vehicle didn’t directly experience the heat from hypersonic atmospheric re-entry, it successfully operated at 100% of the expected heat load in a simulated environment.
In addition, Stoke Space became the fastest company to go from initial seed funding to demonstrating an orbital-class, vertical takeoff and vertical landing rocket, the second company in the world to fly a prototype of a fully reusable upper stage rocket and just the third U.S. company to develop a liquid hydrogen rocket engine.
With the innovative second stage design, the team at Stoke is attempting to do something that has never been done before: design and build a rocket that is 100 percent reusable with a 24 hour turnaround. To reach that goal, the company will now continue moving through the development program by increasing focus on the reusable first stage.