The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to tap the private sector after declaring no contest winners for the agency’s commercial launch competition, National Defense Magazine reported Thursday.
DARPA previously selected Virgin Orbit, Vector Space and Atmosphere and Space Technology Research Associates (Astra) for the DARPA Launch Challenge in 2018. Virgin backed out of the competition while Vector filed for bankruptcy last year. Astra, the sole competitor, failed to conduct the launch within the specified time period.
The rapid-launch competition offered $2 million to any competitor that completed the first launch. DARPA would award $10 million for the first-prize winner of the second launch, $9 million as a second-place prize and $8 million for the third placer.
“As we start to look at space as a warfighting domain in the future, we need to really take a closer look at how do we promote speed as a priority," said Todd Master, program manager for the DARPA Launch Challenge, in a prior interview.
Master said DARPA is looking into integrating the rapid-launch concept into other military activities such as the Rim of the Pacific exercise. The agency also plans to coordinate with the U.S. Space Force and other entities for related efforts, according to the report.