More than 20 teams have indicated they might participate in the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA’s) Launch Challenge, a competition designed to promote rapid access to space for the Department of Defense, the agency said May 7.
During the challenge, which is slated for late 2019, each participant will be expected to launch a payload into low Earth orbit (LEO) on days’ notice, then conduct a second launch to LEO days later from a different site. DARPA plans to award tens of millions of dollars in prizes to the top performers.
“The launch environment of the future will more closely resemble airline operations — with frequent launches from myriad locations worldwide,” the agency said. “DARPA seeks to accelerate capabilities that are unconstrained to allow for flexibility and resilience, rather than one-of-a-kind, fixed infrastructure.”
DARPA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which licenses commercial space launches, plan to brief potential participants on the challenge during a May 23 industry day in Los Angeles. More than 100 people have already registered to attend.
The challenge is not DARPA’s only effort to promote rapid space access. Almost a year ago, the agency tapped Boeing [BA] to design, build and test the XS-1, an unmanned, reusable spaceplane that will fly 10 times in 10 days (Defense Daily, May 24, 2017). The XS-1 is now called the Experimental Space Plane (XSP).