VIDEO CAPTION: DARPA’s SeeMe program aims to give mobile, US warfighters overseas access to on-demand, space-based tactical information in remote and beyond-line-of-sight conditions. If successful, SeeMe will provide timely imagery to warfighters of their immediate surroundings via handheld devices.
Editor’s Note: The satellites are the payloads for DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which aims to put 100-lb. satellites into orbit for less than $1 million apiece. Last year, DARPA awarded six research contracts for the launcher.
During recent public talks, Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan has bemoaned the lack of recent rocket development in the United States. After the initial burst of creativity in the 1950’s and 1960’s, decades went by with very few new rockets being developed. He has also pointed to Scaled Composites’ SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX’s Dragon and Stratolaunch Systems air-launch project (which he worked on for 20 years) as the only serious developments in the field at present.
My first thought was: Burt’s wrong. There’s a lot more going on than just that. Including developments just down the flight line in Mojave that he somehow fails to mention. And my second thought was: well, just how wrong is Burt, exactly?
We now know what DARPA had in mind for payloads when it launched its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is aimed at being able to quickly launch 100 pound satellites into orbit for $1 million apiece.
Darpa’s goal is to show that a constellation of 24 satellites, each weighing less than 100 lb., can be launched into low Earth orbit (LEO) at a fraction of the cost of acquiring additional unmanned aircraft to provide the same imagery.
DARPA has awarded six contracts for its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is designed to produce a rocket capable of launching a 100-pound satellite into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million. Winners include Virgin Galactic, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Northrup Grumman.
HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif., May 31, 2012 — The Boeing Company has been awarded an 18-month study contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to evaluate technologies for on-demand small satellite launch systems. (more…)