WASHINGTON — A three-way launch contest is now down to one unidentified company after two competitors backed out, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said Oct. 22.
DARPA said its Tactical Technology Office will continue the challenge early next year even though Vector and Virgin Orbit subsidiary Vox Space reversed course, electing not to participate. DARPA selected those two companies, as well as a “stealth” competitor, in April as finalists from a field of dozens of applicants.
“As indicated in the quickly narrowing field of competitors, responsive and flexible access to space remains a significant challenge,” Todd Master, program manager for the DARPA Launch Challenge, said in an agency news release. “Future warfighting needs will require true space resilience, the ability to put assets into orbit quickly and from a variety of locations. It’s a fundamental shift from a strategic use of exquisite space assets to a more tactical future.”
DARPA said Vox Space, which markets Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne air-launched rocket to military customers, withdrew from the challenge this month so that Virgin Orbit can “focus on its upcoming commercial launches.”
In an Oct. 22 statement, Virgin Orbit said it supported the aims of the competition to demonstrate responsive ...