New Vendor Offers Inexpensive Payload Lifts
by Aero-News Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. O'Brien
While the focus and certainly the glamour is all on manned
spaceflight this week, a new vendor was displaying its wares, and
reminding us that there remains a robust market for sounding
rockets that can fly small payloads into suborbital space.
UP Aerospace (that's pronounced "up" like the direction) can
deliver a payload of up to 110 lbs (50 kg) to as high as 140 miles
(225 km), and recover it complete and safe to land. It claims to be
the world's only "operational, private space launch company," which
seems a bit of a stretch, but there's no denying that it offers a
useful capability. Scientists often seek to loft instrumentation
packages or experiments to such altitudes.
Not all flights will be to the maximum altitude; some will be
structured, for instance, for the longest possible microgravity
It's also possible to have a payload that opens a window for
"unrestricted access to the space environment," or even deploys
from the booster in space.
UP Aerospace sees its potential customer base comprising three
elements: businesses that need to space-test hardware; scientists
studying the earth, atmosphere, or space; or educational
For the educational market, UP Aerospace has a program called
STAR (Space Technology and Academic Research) to give even those on
tight academic budgets a shot at a space shot. NASA offers Space
Grants to educational institutions and UP can help with
The SpaceLoft resembles nothing more than a large model rocket. It
burns for 13 seconds on launch and then coasts up; flights spend
several minutes in a space, weightless environment, and then
re-enter the atmosphere and deploy parachutes for descent. It's 16
feet long and 8.5 inches in diameter, and has a 20 lb. payload
The larger payloads will fly in the follow-on SpaceLoft XL. That
payload can be up to seven feet long (roughly 2m) and 10 inches in
diameter (25.4 cm), and up to 100 lbs. The XL itself is 19.5 feet
long and 10 inches in diameter.
They also claim the lowest cost per unit of weight of any space
transportation vehicle. They have the initial capability of
conducting 30 launches a year. All services including
"conscientious technical advice and assistance" from payload
integration through launch, tracking and telemetry to complete
payload recovery are included in the package.
To simplify payload integration, the company offers a module
called the Payload Transportation System (PTS). Essentially it's a
10-inch diameter by 12-inch long (25.4 x 30.5 cm) slice of the
payload section of the rocket, with an optional window through
which an experiment can access space (suitable for cameras,
environmental samplers, etc). The PTS is limited to 10 lbs (4.5 kg)
each, although multiple PTSs can fly on a single SpaceLoft.
While it's a new company, it is staffed with experienced
They plan to launch March 27, 2006 at the new Southwest Regional
Spaceport now under construction in New Mexico -- in fact, UP
Aerospace's SpaceLoft will be the first rocket launched from the
new site -- and are scheduling flights now.