The company pitches the Air Force as part of its  Global Space Transport and Delivery Challenge.
Enlarge / The corporate pitches the Air Drive as a part of its World House Transport and Supply Problem.

This week, the US Air Drive convened an occasion throughout which American firms had been invited to pitch concepts for the way they may assist the army additional its ambitions in house. In flip, the Air Drive supplied entrepreneurs the potential to attach with authorities patrons.

Greater than 800 groups submitted options to 4 completely different challenges beneath the AFWERX program, which seeks to foster progressive concepts. These groups embody everybody from prime authorities contractors (comparable to Lockheed Martin and SpaceX) all the best way all the way down to much less mainstream teams providing UFO-propulsion-type concepts. Ultimately, about 175 groups had been invited to current on the EngageSpace occasion on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

A kind of groups was Astra, the California-based launch firm searching for to construct an ultralow-cost rocket able to delivering about 25kg to Solar-synchronous orbit. As a part of the occasion, a lot of the groups did a 10-minute non-public pitch to a handful of Air Drive and House Drive personnel about their answer to a selected downside.

On this case, Astra sought to deal with the World House Transport and Supply Problem, which asks firms to assist the army “develop an area resupply and supply system that may rapidly and precisely deploy packages, provides, and gear to any location on Earth.”

Astra’s pitch for the occasion was titled, “Responsive Launch Enabled by Astra’s Rocket 5.0.” For a time on Thursday, a video of this pitch was posted on Vimeo, however after Ars requested the corporate about it, the video was taken down.

The pitch was made by Adam London, co-founder and chief know-how officer at Astra. After offering an outline of the corporate’s present Rocket 3.0, London outlined the service Astra would provide the Air Drive.

“The system we have constructed immediately is able to delivering about 25kg to a Solar-synchronous orbit, clearly greater than that to a suborbital type of trajectory that could be appropriate for the problem, however we consider {that a} comparatively small payload most likely limits the utility of this for lots of the attainable missions that World House Transport and Supply might require,” London mentioned. “And so we’re proposing as a part of this to introduce a brand new configuration and upgraded configuration to the rocket that can enable for extra payload capability and make it extra helpful on your missions envisioned beneath this problem.”

It’s notable right here that London is saying {that a} model of the corporate’s present rocket might be used to fly suborbital trajectories to quickly ship payloads to places all over the world. He then discusses a proposed improve to his firm’s rocket.

“We wish to lengthen the usability of our present Rocket 3.0 to extend the payload efficiency, and we’re calling this new configuration of the rocket Rocket 5.0,” London mentioned. “It is the identical Rocket 3.0 first stage, similar higher stage, and we take a model of the primary stage and make it right into a smaller second stage inserted between the 2. And that really has the potential of accelerating our payload efficiency by virtually 4 instances.”

The brand new stage would use the identical tank design and approaches, however with solely a single engine, to make the brand new second stage. The modifications might be accomplished by as early as the primary quarter of 2022, based on the presentation.

AFWERX "selected solutions" after this week's event.

AFWERX “chosen options” after this week’s occasion.


This pitch should have proved efficient, as a result of alongside three different firms—together with Rocket Lab—Astra was a “selected solution” within the World House Transport and Supply class.

What occurs subsequent isn’t completely clear. Throughout these conferences, the Air Drive officers had been intentionally imprecise when it comes to how a lot assist could be offered to firms to implement these options. Nevertheless, one supply acquainted with the problem speculated that a number of hundred thousand to a couple million {dollars} could be accessible to assist firms with design research and prototypes.


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