DARPA funding Airborne Launch Assist Space Access to reduce costs by three times

DARPA funding Airborne Launch Assist Space Access to reduce launch costs by three times compared to current military and US commercial launch costs.

ALASA seeks to develop and employ radical advances in launch systems, to include the development of a complete launch vehicle requiring no recurring maintenance or support, and no specific integration to prepare for launch. The ALASA demonstration system will draw upon emerging technologies to provide increased specific impulse propellants, stable propellant formulations, hybrid propellant systems, potential “infrastructure-free” cryogen production, new motor case materials, new flight controls and mission planning techniques, new nozzle designs, improved thrust vectoring methods, and new throttling approaches.

Challenges include development of alternatives to current range processes, control of weight and margin under a hard gross weight limit, creation of a low-cost launch vehicle compatible with an existing aircraft, and development of a concept of operations capable of achieving a cost goal of $1M per launch in this small satellite class.

DARPA ALASA Industry Day Notice (2 page pdf)

Currently, small satellite payloads cost over $30,000 per pound to launch. ALASA seeks to launch satellites on the order of 100 pounds for less than $10,000 per pound, or $1 Million total including range support costs.

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