DARPA updates competitor field for flexible, responsive launch to orbit
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Oct 24, 2019
In early 2020, one team will attempt to win a $10 million prize in the DARPA Launch Challenge. The Challenge aims to increase the flexibility and pace of space launch to put assets into low Earth orbit to meet national security priorities.
The remaining qualifying competitor is a space startup comprising industry veterans currently operating in stealth mode while the company works toward internal technical milestones. The team will receive notification of the first launch site in January 2020 with the first launch window targeted for February.
Virgin Orbit, which entered the competition via its wholly owned subsidiary, VOX Space, exited the competition in October to focus on its upcoming commercial launches. A third team, Vector Launch, withdrew from the Challenge in September due to a change in the company's structure and financial status.
The Launch Challenge includes two launch campaigns, which will occur in a serial manner, within weeks of one another from two different locations. The team will receive notification of the first launch site approximately 30 days from the first launch window.
"A major element of the Launch Challenge is to stress the systems that currently constrain access to space. Today, space launch is a process that begins two to three years in advance, and it relies on a limited number of launch sites with complex, expensive, and fixed infrastructure," said Todd Master, program manager for the DARPA Launch Challenge in the Tactical Technology Office.
"As indicated in the quickly narrowing field of competitors, responsive and flexible access to space remains a significant challenge. Future warfighting needs will require true space resilience, the ability to put assets into orbit quickly and from a variety of locations. It's a fundamental shift from a strategic use of exquisite space assets to a more tactical future."
Launch Challenge Prizes
To be successful in the second launch, the team must again deliver its payload to orbit within the launch campaign, which is targeted to begin March 2020. A U.S. Government or DARPA-designated commercial entity will verify the team's orbit within approximately 24 hours of payload deployment.
+ Naval Outlying Field, San Nicolas Island, California;
+ Pacific Spaceport Complex, Kodiak, Alaska;
+ Vandenberg Air Force Base, California; and
+ Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia.
To earn a spot to compete in the DARPA Launch Challenge, teams had to successfully complete a three-step process: prequalification, DARPA Launch Challenge application, and submission and acceptance of an FAA commercial launch license application.
Firefly Aerospace partners with Aerojet Rocketdyne
Orlando FL (UPI) Oct 19, 2019
Rocket startup company Firefly Aerospace said Friday it will partner with Aerojet Rocketdyne. One of the first projects on which the two will collaborate is 3D printing of Firefly's Reaper engines, according to the formal announcement. "This means we'll have access to the very significant expertise that Aerojet has developed over decades," said Eric Salwan, director of commercial business development at Firefly. "We'll be able to work to develop solutions better than we could separately." Fi ... read more
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