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Mon, Oct 10, 2005

UP, UP and Aerospace?

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 environment.

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 research.

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 those.
 
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 capacity.

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 people.

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.

FMI: www.upaerospace.com

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