An undisclosed space firm is slated to conduct two launch campaigns as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Launch Challenge aimed at delivering payloads to low-Earth orbit.
DARPA said Tuesday it plans to award $2M for the first launch scheduled for March 2020 and a $10M prize if the second launch is successful.
The agency will select among potential launch sites in Alaska, California and Virginia. A third-party entity from the U.S. government or private sector will verify the payload’s delivery within 24 hours of its deployment from the chosen location.
“As indicated in the quickly narrowing field of competitors, responsive and flexible access to space remains a significant challenge,” said Todd Master, program manager for the Launch Challenge. “Future warfighting needs will require true space resilience, the ability to put assets into orbit quickly and from a variety of locations. It’s a fundamental shift from a strategic use of exquisite space assets to a more tactical future.”
The two other competitors for the challenge are Virgin Orbit’s VOX Space subsidiary and Vector Launch. VOX withdrew from the competition to work on commercial launches, while Vector exited due to organizational issues.