WASHINGTON ― The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is seeking ideas for payloads to use in the DARPA Launch Challenge, a competition focused on succesfully deploying assets to low-Earth orbit.

A recent request for information from the U.S. Defense Department agency solicits ideas on “potential payloads to use in conjunction” with the Launch Challenge, with a maximum allowable weight of 500 kilograms, or 1,102 pounds.

The challenge seeks to “demonstrate the ability to launch payloads to orbit on extremely short notice, with no prior knowledge of the payload, destination orbit or launch site, and do it not just once, but twice, in a matter of days,” according to the agency’s description.

As space becomes an increasingly important security domain, DARPA is hoping to spur development of launch vehicles that will allow the Pentagon to more frequently and more easily bring cargo, such as satellites, to orbit than larger rocket contracts allow.

In a clue to what assets the Pentagon would like to carry into space, the RFI specifies that payloads “that consist of multiple quantities of small spacecraft (e.g., CubeSat-class) with a single interface (ie: dispenser) to the launch vehicle are also of interest.” CubeSat satellites are less than 10-by−10-by−10 centimenters, and such small satellites can be used for studies on space technology and Earth observation.

Responses for payload suggestions to use in the challenge are due July 27.

Andrew is a student in the class of 2020 at the University of Notre Dame.

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