Three teams will be competing in a challenge that could help transform the way the Pentagon uses low-Earth orbit.
The newly announced DARPA Launch Challenge teams Vector Launch, VOX Space and a third company that asked for anonymity will try to launch to low-Earth orbit from two different U.S. locations within just weeks. Under the challenge rules, the teams won’t know beforehand the payload, destination orbit or launch site.
Each company received $400,000 from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency after wrapping the qualification phase. After successfully launching payloads to orbit, the teams will get a $2 million prize. For a successful second launch, prizes of $10 million, $9 million and $8 million are available for the three teams, respectively.
“Today, most military and government launches are national events that are planned years in advance and require large, fixed infrastructure,” Todd Master, the program manager for the DARPA Launch Challenge, said in an April 10 statement. “We want to move to a more risk-accepting philosophy and a much faster pace so we can put assets into space at the speed of warfighter needs.”