Spaceport America, New Mexico. November 12, 2013. New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced another successful launch today for UP Aerospace and NASA’s “Flight Opportunities Program”. The public launch of SpaceLoft™ XL 8 (SL-8) from Spaceport America, was designed to reach sub-orbital space. Today’s liftoff marked the 20th launch at Spaceport America and the 12th flight conducted by UP Aerospace.
“It is great to have NASA back at Spaceport America and to have the opportunity to support their second ‘Flight Opportunities’ sub-orbital launch today,” said NMSA Executive Director Christine Anderson. “We also want to congratulate UP Aerospace, who has been launching with us since the beginning, on their 12th launch from the spaceport.”
The SL-8 sub-orbital sounding rocket, provided by UP Aerospace, is part of the NASA “Flight Opportunities Program,” which is designed to provide sub-orbital payload launch resources for NASA and other government agencies, as well as for educational institutions and the private sector. Payload customers for this “Flight Opportunities” launch included New Mexico State University, New Mexico Tech, FAA, NASA, SatWest and the Department of Defense.
The SpaceLoft™ is a reusable launch vehicle that was developed by UP Aerospace in 2006 as a microgravity research platform for education, scientific research, and commercial payloads. The vehicle consists of an expendable carbon composite solid rocket booster, avionics and recovery section, and a payload bay. The SpaceLoft™ launch system is designed with robust margins of safety, and redundancy throughout all mission critical systems.
The heart of the SpaceLoft™ payload delivery system is the patent pending Payload Transportation System™(PTS). Each standard mission contains seven PTS containers. The containers come in two different sizes and have access to the space environment through openings in the vehicle airframe and access panels. Options for each PTS include discrete command, power modules, and telemetry, which can be customized to match specific payload requirements.
SpaceLoft™ is ground launched from Spaceport America using a remote hydraulic launcher and automated launch systems. The solid rocket motor burns for 12 seconds and reaches space within 60 seconds. A de-spin system slows the roll rate to near zero when microgravity experiments can begin to be conducted. The payload section remains weightless in excess of 4 minutes.
During the re-entry phase of the flight, the booster section is released and the payload and recovery sections are balanced to trim in a horizontal orientation to slow the vehicle. At about a mile above the ground, redundant onboard controls release the drogue parachute system, which orientates the payload section in a vertical heads down attitude. Ten seconds after drogue deploy, the main parachute is released and provides a soft landing on White Sands Missile Range.
Today’s launch took place at approximately 9:15 a.m. MDT, which was within the dedicated 2.25-hour launch window. Flight data indicates that the rocket attained a maximum altitude of approximately 116 km or 72.2 miles. The parachute recovery system brought the SpaceLoft™ rocket and its payload safely back to the ground, where it was recovered intact approximately 25 miles downrange on White Sands Missile Range as planned.
Company Overview: UP Aerospace was created in 1998 by founder Jerry Larson and incorporated in 2004 with its headquarters located in Denver, Colorado. UP Aerospace has been successfully conducting launches from Spaceport America in New Mexico since 2006. They have conducted a total of twelve launch campaigns from the Spaceport; this is the eight for the SpaceLoft launch vehicle. Four additional launches were of a proprietary system for Lockheed Martin and MOOG.