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Air-launched rocket flies through NASA’s testing phase

09 January 2018

Generation Orbit Launch Services (GO) & NASA completed flight tests of GOLauncher, a single stage rocket designed for hypersonic and suborbital researchers.

Generation Orbit Launch (GO) & NASA completed flight tests of GOLauncher (Credit: GO/NASA)

Under a public-private partnership with NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Centre, GO developed the GO1-ITA (Inert Test Article), a mass properties and outer mould line simulator for the GO1 hypersonic testbed. This earned them approval for flight on NASA’s C-20a. The C-20a was modified originally to include a centreline hard point to carry the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) pod. 

Three flight tests were successfully completed, meeting all objectives including clearing the operational flight envelope of the C-20a with the GO1-ITA mounted to the centreline hard point, as well as demonstrating the launch manoeuvre designed for air launch of the GO1 on operational flights starting in 2019.

All data collected will be used to validate models and inform the future design of GO1.

GO CEO, AJ Piplica, commented on the completion of the programme: “I’m immensely proud of our team and what has been achieved in a very short timeframe. To go from concept to flight of our company’s first flight hardware on a manned aircraft in under two years shows the talent, belief, and sheer force of will that are the trademark of the culture we’re continuing to build at GO. Over the course of this collaboration with NASA, we’ve learned a great deal from working with the NASA Armstrong team, especially through the flight test operation portion of the collaboration. The culmination of this partnership in the successful flight test campaign has demonstrated the value of the NASA’s public-private partnership model for supporting the advancement of novel, commercial aerospace technologies.”

“This public-private partnership between NASA and Generation Orbit helped to advance a commercial air-launch system for delivering small payloads which will someday benefit the nation’s space and hypersonic needs”, said Ron Young, programme manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities programme.

Young added, “Armstrong’s rich heritage to safety fly unique aircraft configurations and Generation Orbit’s rapid ability to quickly deliver a flight test article allowed for a significant accomplishment advancement in this commercial capability in a short period of time.”


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