DARPA Launch Challenge seeks to demonstrate “just in time” payload integration as part of the overall goal for rapid and responsive use of space. In contrast with typical launch campaigns where payload data is given to the launch provider months prior, details of the payloads for Launch 1 were shared with the launch team on January 22, 2020 (L-30 days). The Launch 1 payload manifest consists of four CubeSats and one hosted payload. The team received the payloads at the launch site, where integration with the rocket is being finalized.
Today, space launch is a process that begins years in advance, and it relies on a limited number of launch ranges that have complex, expensive, and one-of-a-kind, fixed infrastructure. The DARPA Launch Challenge is stressing the time, technology, systems, and processes that currently constrain access to space. The Challenge aims to minimize launch infrastructure, improve responsiveness, and take advantage of advances in commercial launch cadence to demonstrate flexible launch capabilities in days rather than years, for our nation’s defense.