Rotary Rocket's Roton test vehicle made its third flight test, the company announced Monday, flying close to a mile down a Mojave, Calif. airport runway.
The flight of the conical rocket prototype on October 12 was to demonstrate its ability to fly "under full control in a forward direction -- exactly the same mode of flying that would be needed by a returning space vehicle maneuvering to land at an airport," the company said.
Rotary Rocket hopes to launch a Roton rocket into space in 2001, but has had problems raising adequate money for the venture.
Their test vehicle -- called the Roton ATV -- was in the air close to four minutes and reached a height of 75 feet, flying as fast as 53 miles per hour. Its total travelling distance was 4300 feet.
"An extremely successful and impressive test," Rotary Rocket's CEO Gary Hudson said. "There is now no doubt in our minds, or in the minds of those present at the test, that the Roton does fly and, in fact, it flies very well."
Hudson added that data garnered from the test flights could be used to cut down on expenses during the rocket's experimental phase.
"The quality of the flight data obtained from this flight is such that it may well be possible to reduce the scale of the ATV flight test program without compromising results," he said. "This is an important consideration for a small company such as ours operating within our budget constraints."
The Roton test vehicle last flew on September 16, when it hovered at a height of about 20 feet, then landed.
Rotary Rockets hopes to send the Roton into Earth orbit in 2001. The rocket would launch to an altitude of around 185 miles and, after delivering a satellite payload, return through the atmosphere for a safe landing.