Boeing has begun work on phase 2 of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency‘s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access program that seeks to develop technology that will expedite the launch of small satellites to space.
DARPA said Feb. 5 that phase 2 includes more than 10 orbital test launches for the prototype system developed during phase 1, including a new monopropellant that combines the fuel and oxidizer.
Other phase 1 results include mission-planning software, space-based telemetry and an automated flight-termination system, the agency added.
“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,” Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, remarked during a Federal Aviation Administration event.
ALASA aims to utilize conventional aircraft instead of vertical launch systems to release payload-carrying launch vehicles at high altitude, DARPA said.
“ALASA seeks to overcome the limitations of current launch systems by streamlining design and manufacturing and leveraging the flexibility and reusability of an air-launched system,” added Mitchell Burnside Clapp, DARPA program manager.
“We envision an alternative to ride-sharing for satellites that enables satellite owners to launch payloads from any location into orbits of their choosing, on schedules of their choosing, on a launch vehicle designed specifically for small payloads.”
According to DARPA, an ALASA flight demonstration test is scheduled late this year, followed by the first orbital test launch by mid-2016.
See more details on the ALASA program here.