ABL Space Systems secures $60 million for rapid response launch for defense customers
Launch startup ABL Space Systems has landed a $60 million contract to boost its “reactive launch” operational capability, as part of the US Space Force’s Strategic Funding Augmentation Program and the US Air Force (STRATIF). The new funding, which is equal parts government funding and private investment, comes as the company prepares for the second launch attempt of its RS1 rocket.
In a statement, ABL said a key challenge with responsive space launches “is breaking the assumption of a predefined orbit, trajectory and launch site.” For such missions, the company said it would create new operational capabilities for short-notice launches.
“We believe that operational flexibility is essential to meet the rapidly changing needs of our customers,” Eva Abramson, ABL’s head of strategic development, said in a statement. “This award will help us further develop on-call launch capabilities to meet payload, launch site and target orbit requirements.”
The US Space Force has made strides in recent years to expand its Tactically Reactive Space (TacRS) capabilities by working with private industry, and rocket startups in particular. Last October, the Space Force awarded Firefly Space a $17.6 million TacRS mission contract to launch this year. Under the terms of the agreement, Space Force will give Firefly just 24 hours notice before launch.
This new funding will likely be a boon for ABL as it prepares to launch its small RS1 rocket for the second time from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island in Alaska. The company made its first launch attempt in January, but the rocket was destroyed after all nine engines on the first stage shut down simultaneously. The vehicle struck the launch pad, but no personnel were injured.
ABL has yet to announce a date for the next launch, but it’s already considering an expansion: Earlier this month, the Space Force granted the company dedicated launch space at Launch Complex 15 at Cape Space Base. Canaveral in Florida.