[Via Satellite 02-06-2015] The United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to conduct 12 orbital test launches of an Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) integrated prototype system starting in 2016. The project, now in its second phase with Boeing as the prime contractor, seeks to drastically bring down the cost of orbiting small satellites while simultaneously boosting launch cadence.
“We’ve made good progress so far toward ALASA’s ambitious goal of propelling 100-pound satellites into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) within 24 hours of call-up, all for less than $1 million per launch. We’re moving ahead with rigorous testing of new technologies that we hope one day could enable revolutionary satellite launch systems that provide more affordable, routine and reliable access to space,” said Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
ALASA seeks to reduce costs by implementing a new, high-energy monopropellant that combines fuel and oxidizer into a single liquid. The agency anticipates this will lead to streamlining design, manufacture and operation of the system if successful. ALASA would also cut costs by leveraging a reusable air-launched system. A demonstration flight that precedes the test launches is currently planned for late 2015.
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