IAR-111 Excelsior was a suborbital rocketplane program developed at ARCA for commercial suborbital spaceflights, between 2010-2012. The program is currently closed but future developments might be considered.
The typical flight sequence of this vehicle includes high acceleration takeoff, followed by a horizontal acceleration at low subsonic speeds, then by rapid ascension, in approximately two minutes, to the altitude of 48.000 feet. At this altitude the airplane will drop the external fuel tank and continue to climb near vertical to the edge of space at 61 mi (100 km). Excelsior will reentry into atmosphere and land as a glider.
Excelsior was designed to have a capability of Mach 1.5 supersonic flight at 52,000 ft (16,000 m), Mach 2.6 at 98,000ft (30.000 m) and Mach 5.2 at 157,000 ft (48,000 m). The Excelsior was entirely built out of composite materials.
The aircraft was designed to have a crew of two, the pilot and the navigator, or passenger, although ARCA was considering increasing the crew capacity up to five for space tourism. The aircraft capsule is detachable and is equipped with two rocket propelled parachutes. As such the capsule can be separated form the aircraft at speeds between Mach 0-1.2 and heights above 300 feet and can return the crew safely to the ground.
IAR - 111 - TECHNICAL DATA
Empty weight (kg):
Take-off weight (kg):
Sea level thrust (kgf):
Max. altitude (m):
On September 26, 2011 ARCA carried out Mission 6. The mission took place in cooperation with the Special Aviation Unit and the Coast Guard and the mission objective was to test the recovery system for Excelsior crew capsule.
At 11.00 AM a Mi-17 helicopter from Special Aviation Unit lifted the capsule at 2200 ft (700 m) above sea level.
At that altitude the helicopter released the capsule. The parachute was extracted from its canister by a rocket, it rapidly opened and the capsule landed on the sea surface with a descent speed of 7 m/s.
The capsule was recovered by the same helicopter with the support of the Coast Guard.