With its high tail, dual fuselages, and lack of cockpit, the Stargazer II is a unique looking aircraft. Built by Aquilon Aeronautics, the Stargazer II’s unusual design is perfect to achieve its mission—act as a first stage orbit vehicle capable of carrying a satellite or other space vehicle to the upper atmosphere.
The team worked hard to produce an aircraft that meets the needs of NASA and the United States Department of Defense. Capable of achieving altitudes above 60,000 feet, taking off in less than 9,000 feet, and carrying a 30,000 pound satellite to the edge of space, this aircraft has numerous applications for today’s military and scientific community. The aircraft can climb to a max altitude quickly, and fly a total of about three hours before needing to refuel. Furthermore, the Stargazer II is an unmanned vehicle, removing the risks a pilot would have to take at during missions such as these.
Aquilon Aeronautics has conducted an extensive battery of tests on their aircraft, including a recent wind tunnel test. The team produced 1/80 scale model to test performance characteristics and determine the effect of the tails, whose unusual design is meant to prevent the satellite from hitting them upon its release from the central part of the aircraft.
For the design, build, break portion of their project, Aquilon Aeronautics built a third scale model of the right vertical tail. This section was subjected to stress tests, and the team saw significant failure at about 4025 pounds, which is about 133 percent of the 3021 pound ultimate bending load. Soon, Aquilon Aeronautics will wrap up this challenging detail design, but the skills they’ve learned here will certainly follow them into the industry.