DARPA Picks Boeing To Demonstrate Airborne Launcher Concept

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WASHINGTON — The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Boeing a contract worth as much as $104 million to build and demonstrate a low-cost airborne launching system for small satellites, according to a March 24 posting on the Federal Business Opportunities website.

The contract is for DARPA’s Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is intended to field a system to launch satellites weighing up to 45 kilograms into low Earth orbit for $1 million each.

The base value of Boeing’s contract is $30.6 million, with a first option worth $72 million and a second option worth $2 million, according to the posting.

“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 say. “The ability to relocate and launch from any major runway around the globe reduces the time needed to deploy a satellite system.”

The program is aiming for a demonstration launch in fiscal year 2015. DARPA requested $55 million for the program in 2015, up from $42 million in 2014, according to the budget documents.

DARPA in 2012 awarded ALASA design contracts to Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Virgin Galactic, along with related technology development contracts to three other companies.

 

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