Press Release

AirLaunch LLC Selected for Contract Continuance by DARPA

By SpaceRef Editor
November 15, 2005
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Nov. 3, 2005–AirLaunch LLC announced today that it has been selected for contract continuance by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under Phase 2B of the Falcon program. Valued at $17.8 million for a one-year effort, the Phase 2B contract activity enables AirLaunch and its team of contractors to continue development of the QuickReach(TM) small satellite booster.

The Falcon program goal is to develop a booster that can launch a small satellite for less than $5 million with only 24 hours notice. AirLaunch’s design achieves responsiveness by carrying its QuickReach(TM) booster to altitude inside the cargo bay of an unmodified C-17A or other large cargo aircraft.

“We look forward to working with the DARPA/Air Force team to move the QuickReach booster development forward and bring the nation’s first air-launched liquid rocket booster to fruition,” said Gary Hudson, founder and Chairman of AirLaunch. “In Phase 2A, AirLaunch rapidly designed a prototype rocket, integrated a mock-up with an unmodified C-17 aircraft, and successfully executed a drop test of the hardware. Phase 2B will focus on additional risk reduction and maturing the launch vehicle design and concept of operations.”

AirLaunch and its team of contractors recently completed Phase 2A of the program, culminating with the company demonstrating the safe release of a dummy booster from an Air Force C-17A cargo plane. During Phase 2B, AirLaunch will conduct further risk reduction activities (including additional C-17 drop tests and an integrated stage-two firing), provide an initial Interface Control Document (ICD) for a payload, and complete a Critical Design Review (CDR). The contract includes an option for Phase 2C, to conduct a flight demonstration of the QuickReach(TM) booster and launch a small payload into Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

In fall 2003, DARPA and the U.S. Air Force challenged nine U.S. competitors to develop a small launch vehicle that can carry small satellites to orbit for no more than $5 million per launch based on a rate of 20 flights per year. In mid-2004, AirLaunch and three other contractors were selected for Phase 2A.

“The AirLaunch concept will enable tremendous flexibility for deploying satellites anywhere and anytime,” said Debra Facktor Lepore, President of AirLaunch. “I’m especially excited that we will manage the program from our new headquarters in Kirkland, Washington.”

The AirLaunch team is comprised of Space Vector of Burbank, CA (launch operations, integration support, avionics wafer, storage and launch carrier); Universal Space Lines LLC of Newport Beach, CA (Vehicle Management System hardware and software including flight controls); Orion Propulsion Inc. of Huntsville, AL (propulsion test equipment and test support); Delta Velocity Corporation of Purcellville, VA (payload fairing, payload planner and user’s guide); and HMX of Reno, NV (propulsion including tanks and engines). AirLaunch is responsible for program management and integration of the complete system in cooperation with Space Vector. Other subcontractors include Wilson Composite Technologies of Folsom, CA (composite tank expertise); Spincraft of Billerica, MA (aluminum tanks); and AAE Aerospace of Costa Mesa, CA (thrust chamber assemblies). Contact:

AirLaunch LLC
Linda Strine, 303-726-8416

SpaceRef staff editor.