U.S. Military Takes Step Toward Rapid Spacecraft Construction and Launch

UP Aerospace's SpaceLoft vehicle

One of the goals of the U.S. military is to be able to quickly build and launch payloads into space in order to respond to situations that might arise. The military took a step toward that goal with an experiment earlier this month in New Mexico.


The Operationally Responsive Space (ORS) Office participated in the successful launch of the UP Aerospace SpaceLoft XL rocket from Spaceport America carrying a payload built in less than one week. The launch took place on May 4 at approximately 6:45 a.m. MDT.

“I applaud the launch and payload teams and am pleased that the ORS payload provided yet another demonstration of our enablers of rapid spacecraft build, integration, test and launch,” said Dr. Peter Wegner, Director, ORS Office. “This launch proved to be a very cost effective way to demonstrate key ORS enabling models of rapid development and build of a payload, integration and test of the payload, and identification and assurance of payload technical readiness. We continue to address the military’s need for responsive, affordable and flexible space systems by using off the shelf components to support a variety of future missions,” added Wegner.

The payload was built by Schafer Corporation in less than one week and was designed to record data to characterize the flight of the rocket from launch to a weightless environment in space, reentry, and touchdown. The data measured acceleration, temperature and pressure to quantify the environment that future payloads will experience, and to help pave the way to building a low cost reliable automated flight safety system (AFSS) that will reduce the cost of future launches.

The SpaceLoft XL launch provided ORS the opportunity to test the performance of an integrated student or commercially built system in a microgravity environment. Two small onboard sensor/data loggers recorded the rocket flight in three axes, at 100 samples/sec, and operated flawlessly. The rocket exceeded performance expectations in microgravity and characterized the flight of the rocket from launch to weightless environment in space, reentry and touchdown; a significant step for smaller scale access to space.

The ORS Office’s goal is to have components in the hands of student-led projects that can fly on another UP Aerospace rocket within the year. The successful launch of the SpaceLoft XL rocket enables the ORS team to design future flights based on known data points, and to use components that will withstand launch acceleration and reentry stresses.

The Operationally Responsive Space Office is working with the broader space enterprise to provide assured space power focused on the timely satisfaction of Joint Force Commanders’ needs. The overarching objective of the Office is to address emerging, persistent, and/or unanticipated needs through timely augmentation, reconstitution, and exploitation of space force enhancement, space control, and space support capabilities.