Three companies have been named finalists in a government competition offering a reward for demonstrating the ability to to payloads into orbit quickly, reports Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
The next phase will have the competitors show how they can launch from two separate, secret locations within a matter of weeks.
They’ll be notified only of the site, load and intended orbit just in time to make it happen.
The Launch Challenge run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency was proposed as a kind of “have rocket launch system” will-travel concept a year ago.
NASA’s Apollo program required a lengthy timeline for any launch, to stage a rocket, fuel it and test it.
The new program “aims to fundamentally shift military space capabilities to enable on-demand, flexible, and responsive launch of small payloads,” DARPA said.
The three competitors that successfully completed the qualification phase will attempt to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within a matter of weeks, the federal agency explained.
“Teams will receive notice of the first launch site a few weeks prior to launch and exact details on the payload and intended orbit just days before launch. DARPA is targeting both launches for early 2020.”
The companies are Vector Launch, Virgin Orbit working through a subsidiary called VOX Space, and a third company that requested anonymity through this stage of the competition.
DARPA said it ordered a $400,000 prize for each competitor for completing the previous stages of qualification.