Lockheed Martin Launches Secret Rocketplane Prototype

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Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver launched a small reusable rocket prototype Oct. 10 from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. UP Aerospace of Denver provided the launch services, as it did for two previous flights conducted in support of a Lockheed Martin effort to test proprietary advanced launch technologies.

Slater Voorhees, Lockheed Martin Space Systems’ project lead for advanced programs, told Space News that the Oct. 10 flight was successful and was conducted to advance the companies understanding of ground and launch operations for responsive space needs.

“We’ve analyzed things. We’ve done studies. We’ve built tools to model things. But we wanted to take it a step further … to get our engineering using hands-on hardware,” he said.

Lockheed Martin Space Systems teamed with UP Aerospace in December 2007 to launch a small, self-propelled winged vehicle to an altitude of roughly 915 meters, but did not disclose the launch until the following April. A second test flight conducted in August 2008 suffered an in-flight anomaly that led to the loss of the craft.

There was no advanced public notice of the Oct. 10 launch and Lockheed Martin officials would not provide details about the vehicle or its capabilities. The vehicles used for the first two flights were winged vehicles weighing about 90 kilograms, measured around 2.4 meters from nose to tail and had a 1.8-meter wingspan. On its first flight, the vehicle flew skyward from an UP Aerospace launch rail to an altitude of roughly 915 meters.