DARPA designed software to streamline the satellite launch, a space-based telemetry to monitor the spacecraft and automatic flight-termination systems to assess flight conditions for the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program, DARPA said Thursday.
“We’ve made good progress so far toward ALASA’s ambitious goal of propelling 100-pound satellites into low Earth orbit within 24 hours of call-up, all for less than $1 million per launch,” said Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office.
The ALASA program intends to use runways instead of fixed vertical launch sites in order to reduce infrastructure costs.
DARPA plans to mature the technology under the second phase before transferring the system to government and commercial partners for use in the space community.
The agency contracted Boeing in March 2014 to incorporate commercial avionics, composite structures and high-energy monopropellant into the spacecraft under the second phase of ALASA.
DARPA plans to conduct 12 orbital test launches to evaluate the ALASA prototype’s performance, with the first orbital launch test scheduled in the first half of 2016 after the flight test in late 2015.