ABL RS1 first stage
The first stage of ABL Space System’s RS1 rocket being readied at the company’s factory. That rocket will perform its first launch in the spring, carrying two satellites for L2 Aerospace. Credit: ABL Space Systems

WASHINGTON — Small launch vehicle developer ABL Space Systems will launch two satellites for L2 Aerospace on the first flight of its RS1 rocket this spring, the companies announced Feb. 16.

The two satellites developed by L2, a company founded by Lance Lord, a retired Air Force general and former head of Air Force Space Command, will be used to rapidly test new technology and support training activities, according to a statement the companies. L2 didn’t disclose details about the size or other aspects of the spacecraft.

The satellites will be used to demonstrate “a unique communications and network architecture and test cybersecurity applications,” Jim Royston, chief executive of L2, said in the statement.

The RS1 is a small launch vehicle capable of placing up to 1,350 kilograms into low Earth orbit. The vehicle is in final stages of development with that first launch scheduled for the second quarter of this year from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The vehicle uses a containerized ground system, called GS0, that allows it to launch from sites with minimal infrastructure. ABL argues that makes the vehicle well-suited to responsive launch applications.

“L2 and ABL are like-minded companies focused on addressing the needs of the U.S. national security space community,” Dan Piemont, president and co-founder of ABL, said in a statement. “By demonstrating an end-to-end responsive launch service from day one, we hope to advance the space architecture to make it nimbler and more capable for the U.S. and our allies.”

The announcement comes a little more than a week after Lockheed Martin announced it selected ABL to perform a launch from the United Kingdom in 2022. The UK Pathfinder Launch will fulfill an award that Lockheed received from the UK Space Agency in 2018 for a launch, which will carry six cubesats in an orbital maneuvering vehicle developed by Moog. Lockheed had previously invested in ABL.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...