paceRyde, formerly Loonify, has released a video of the first test flight of its stratospheric balloon launch system.
SpaceRyde, like over 100 competitors globally, is looking to capture a portion of the small satellite launch market. Their launch system is different than most. They plan on using a stratospheric balloon to carry a small rocket and the satellite payload to a very high altitude before releasing the rocket and launching it into orbit.
The flight took place on June 9, just days before the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) Super Session, where they graduated as part of the first class in the new Space Stream.
The timing was good as it gave them an opportunity at the CDL Super Session to talk about the first flight which was a partial success.
That test flight was conducted at North Bay airport and was conducted to a low altitude for the first flight. SpaceRyde co-founder Saharnaz Safari told SpaceQ that the CDL Mentor network was instrumental in getting connected to the right people to help make the launch a reality. The advice SpaceRyde received included how to handle airspace issues and to work with Transport Canada and other regulatory bodies.
SpaceRyde told TechCrunch that flight carried “a scaled down version of their launch platform and rocket in Northern Ontario, Canada. The test wasn’t a complete success – a modification to the off-the-shelf rocket engine they used didn’t work exactly as expected – but it did demonstrate that their in-flight launch platform orientation tech worked as intended, and Safari says the malfunction that did occur is relatively easy to fix.” A full scale demonstration flight is planned next year.
SpaceRyde can build on their experience at CDL and their first test flight. However, as experienced by another competitor, Zero 2 Infinity, launching from a stratospheric balloon is not easy. Zero 2 Infinity’s Bloostar program has been underway for over five years and is still looking to launch its first orbital flight.
The concept of launching from a stratospheric balloon is sound, however as with any launch system, there are technical challenges to overcome.
SpaceRyde was able to demonstrate the ability to stabilize their balloon, but reaching high altitude, stabilizing the balloon at that level, and launching the rocket, is another level of difficulty.
The good news for SpaceRyde is they obviously had enough momentum to keep them in the CDL program and to graduate.
Correction: The flight was conducted at the North Bay airport next to CFB North Bay.