Air launched rocket for captive carry testing of hypersonic technology

Generation Orbit is developing GOLauncher 1. It is an air launched single stage rocket capable of serving microgravity, astrophysics, and hypersonics researchers. GO1 can fly a range of suborbital trajectories including high altitude and suppressed. Multiple payload configurations can accommodate both integrated and recoverable experiments, as well as deployable hardware.

Currently in development, the GOLauncher 1 will serve the hypersonic flight test and suborbital research communities with an affordable air-launched single-stage booster. The GOLauncher 1’s liquid propulsion system maximizes performance and mission flexibility compared to traditional solid booster solutions.

Generation Orbit Launch Services as been awarde a Follow-On Phase II SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract from the Air Force Research Laboratory, Aerospace Systems Directorate, High Speed Systems Division (AFRL/RQH) for development and flight testing of the GOLauncher 1 (GO1).

Payloads can be accommodated in two configurations:

Recoverable: payload modules similar to traditional sounding rocket configurations.
Deployable: similar to traditional launch vehicle configuration with a deployable fairing, and separation system for the payload

Payload masses range from 30 to 200 lbm for high altitude microgravity research trajectories and up to 700 lbm for hypersonic flight test trajectories.

High Altitude/Microgravity: Optimized for maximum altitudes ranging up to 300 km and microgravity times up to 7 minutes
Suppressed: Optimized for sustained high Mach, high dynamic pressure, offering captive carry and free-flyer hypersonic flight testing

While advances in computational methods and ground test facilities have matured technologies like scramjet engines, light weight high temperature composite structures, and autonomous flight controls, flight research and testing is still the key linchpin in transitioning these technologies to operational systems. GOLauncher 1 offers researches the flexibility to conduct both captive carry and free-flyer experiments at high dynamic pressure/high Mach number flight conditions for substantially lower cost has previously been demonstrated.

GOLauncher 2

Generation Orbit’s smallest orbital launcher, the GOLauncher 2 consists of a modified Gulfstream IV business jet as the carrier aircraft platform for a two-stage expendable rocket. GO2 targets the Nanosatellite and CubeSat markets with payloads up to 40 kg to Low Earth Orbit at a price point of under $3M for the entire launch. Partial launches can also be accommodated.

Selected by NASA under the 2013 NASA NEXT program, GOLauncher 2 and its development partners also formed the basis of our win at the 2013 NewSpace Business Plan Competition.

GOLauncher 3 Mini

GOLauncher 3 mini is the next step on their roadmap. Utilizing a larger, transport-class carrier aircraft like the DC-10, the GO3 mini will include an all liquid rocket capable of delivering up to 150 kg of payload to sun synchronous orbit (SSO). This capability would accommodate dedicated launch of single small satellites – those in the Skybox or OneWeb class. The target price for GO3 mini is approximately $5M.

The GO3 mini is currently in preliminary design.


GOLauncher Next represents our vision for highly responsive space access for small payloads up to 1,000 kg or global delivery of payloads up to 3,000 kg. Built around advanced combined-cycle propulsion and reusable high temperature structures, the GONext is being positioned to significantly reduce the cost of space launch and ultra high-speed point-to-point (PTP) flight while preserving the advantages of horizontal launch, basing flexibility, responsiveness, and aircraft-like operations.

The concept pictured here is just one option for GOLauncher Next.