Polaris on course to develop hypersonic spaceplane Aurora

The scaled-down version of the firm's fourth demonstrator, MIRA, has successfully completed a series of test flights.
Jijo Malayil
Polaris' Mira-Light
Polaris' Mira-Light


The German aerospace firm Polaris Raumflugzenge has completed a series of test flights on the development of Aurora, the firm's next-generation spaceplane concept. 

Last week, it successfully completed a flight of Mira-Light, a scaled-down version of its fourth demonstrator flight Mira, scheduled for its inaugural flight by year-end.

The firm has a wide net of experience in creating reusable space launch capabilities and a flexible hypersonic transport system that can continue to function as a conventional airplane.

The Aurora vehicle combines airplane and rocket launcher technology with a novel design to provide a significant cost advantage and pave the way for regular, secure, low-cost access to space. To that extent, Polaris has been creating a number of scaled flying demonstrators to test the technology and quicken the construction of the spaceplane. 

Comprehensive testing

MIRA-Light measures 8 feet (2.5 meters) in length and is a technologically simple version of the larger and heavier aerospike-demonstrator MIRA. The main goal of the aircraft is to thoroughly evaluate and optimize MIRA's flight control systems. The vehicle features four electric ducted fans for propulsion against Mira's four kerosene-fed jet turbines and liquid-fuel linear aerospike rocket engine.

MIRA-Light represented the firm's fourth vehicle to take to the skies after its earlier demonstrators –Stella, Aleda, and Athena. The team was able to limit the whole project expenditures, including human and hardware costs for design, manufacture, and flight-testing, to a relatively low amount, totaling just a few tens of thousands, using our significant experience. Polaris says the vehicle's design and construction were completed concurrently with MIRA in a matter of few weeks.

"Since the first flight went flawlessly, we directly started the flight controller testing and calibration program the same day. By the end of the day, MIRA-𝘓𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 had already completed five flights without encountering any issues. Looking ahead, we are poised to conduct approximately 10 to 15 additional flights in the coming weeks to conclude our comprehensive testing program," said Polaris in a statement.

Polaris now plans to complete the test flight of its Mira by the end of 2023, and the final demonstrator Nova is set to take to the skies at the beginning of next year.

Multipurpose spaceplane

The innovative aerospace system in Aurora enables aircraft-like operations for global runway launches, rendering traditional launch pads obsolete. With remarkable cost reductions attributed to reusability and the removal of launch pad expenses, Aurora is capable of accommodating payloads of up to 2,204 pounds (1,000 kilograms) for orbital missions and an impressive 22,040 pounds (10,000 kilograms) for suborbital or hypersonic ventures.

According to Polaris, the efficiency of Aurora is underscored by mission preparation and turnaround times of fewer than 24 hours, all while offering the flexibility to reach orbits of any inclination. The system also allows for mission aborts and secure payload returns, while the mission's sustainability is highlighted through its 90 to 100% system reusability and use of environmentally friendly propellants.

Aurora has a distinct, multi-mission capacity that is not common in spaceflight. Traditional tiny launchers can only efficiently serve one market – the launch of small satellites – whereas Aurora can accommodate at least five diverse use cases. According to Polaris, this makes it possible to reach a big client base and market size, generating a compelling business case unmatched by conventional tiny launchers.

After the series of demonstrator test flights, Polaris aims to make the Aurora spaceflight operational by 2026-27.

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