[SatNews] The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded Boeing a contract worth approximately $104 million to build and demonstrate a low-cost airborne launching system for small satellites.
The contract is for DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program. The base value is $30,673,934; the first option value is $72,044,948; the second option value is $2,032,857. The goal of ALASA is to develop a significantly less expensive approach for launching small satellites routinely, with a goal of at least threefold reduction in costs compared to current military and US commercial launch costs. ALASA seeks to develop and employ radical advances in launch systems, to include the development of a complete launch vehicle requiring no recurring maintenance or support, and no specific integration to prepare for launch. The ALASA demonstration system will draw upon emerging technologies to provide increased specific impulse propellants, stable propellant formulations, hybrid propellant systems, potential "infrastructure-free" cryogen production, new motor case materials, new flight controls and mission planning techniques, new nozzle designs, improved thrust vectoring methods, and new throttling approaches.
“ALASA will enable small satellites to be deployed to orbit from an airborne platform, allowing performance improvement, reducing range costs and flying more frequently, which drives cost per event down,” DARPA budget documents state. “The ability to relocate and launch from any major runway around the globe reduces the time needed to deploy a satellite system.”
The DARPA infosite is located at http://www.darpa.mil/