Drone To Launch From Jacksonville’s Cecil Spaceport For US Space Force Mission

Dec 4, 2020

Aevum has unveiled its Ravn X autonomous launch vehicle, which is expected to launch next year from Cecil Spaceport on Jacksonville’s Westside.

The space logistics and autonomous launch company said the Ravn X is the world’s largest unmanned aircraft system that has been designed to deliver satellites to space in as fast as every 180 minutes.

"We're faster than anybody. To me, space is merely a vantage point from which the next generation can commit global progress. Through our autonomous technologies, Aevum will shorten the lead time of launches from years to months, and when our customers demand it, minutes," said Jay Skylus, founder and CEO of Aevum, in a news release.

A launch date hasn’t been announced, but several outlets, including Science Magazine and Space News, along with WJCT News partner the Jacksonville Daily Record, have reported a liftoff is expected before the end of 2021.

Aevum’s first launch is scheduled to be for the U.S. Space Force's ASLON-45 mission.

The Ravn X is 80 feet long, with a 60-foot wingspan. It’s 18 feet tall and has a gross takeoff weight of 55,000 pounds.

Aevum claims its Ravn X is the only small launch vehicle that has been designed and built as reusable. Aevum says it is 70% reusable now and will be up to 95% reusable in the near future.

The company says it's already profitable and has been awarded government contracts totaling more than $1 billion. 

Cecil Spaceport is the only currently licensed horizontal launch commercial spaceport on the East Coast, according to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA). In the future, Aevum expects to add additional launch locations beyond Jacksonville.

Last month, JAA's board voted to start work on a new airplane hangar and office facility at Cecil Spaceport at a cost of nearly $12 million.

JAA said the new facility will be leased to ManTech Advanced Systems International Inc., which has a contract with the U.S. Navy Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Airport Program to support and maintain P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

Bill Bortzfield can be reached at bbortzfield@wjct.org or on Twitter at @BortzInJax.