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ABL Space Secures $60M USSF/USAF Demo Contract

ABL Space Systems has secured a $60 million contract from the US Space Force and US Air Force.

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Zac Aubert

Zac Aubert

Sun Mar 26 2023Written by Zac Aubert

ABL Space Systems has secured a $60 million contract from the US Space Force and US Air Force.

The contract is specifically for ground and flight demonstrations in “tactically responsive space,” which is an initiative championed by Congress to leverage commercial rockets for rapid-response missions that may be needed in the event of a conflict targeting military satellites.

ABL’s agreement includes $30 million in government funding and $30 million in matching funds from the company’s investors in a type of agreement known as strategic funding increase (STRATFI).

As part of the contract, ABL will seek to demonstrate “operational flexibility for low-cost launches supporting tactically responsive space,” the company said.

The contract marks a significant milestone for ABL, which was founded in 2017 and has rapidly established itself as a leading player in the commercial launch industry.

The company's flagship rocket, the RS1, is a two-stage vehicle designed to carry payloads weighing up to 1,200 kilograms to low-Earth orbit. ABL's focus on developing a low-cost launch system has been a key factor in its success, and the company has already secured contracts with several high-profile customers, including NASA and the Department of Defense.

"We are thrilled to have been selected for this important initiative and look forward to demonstrating the capabilities of our RS1 rocket,...This contract is a significant milestone for ABL and a testament to the hard work and dedication of our entire team." - Harry O'Hanley, ABL Space CEO

The demonstration flights are expected to take place in 2023 and will provide critical data on ABL's ability to rapidly launch payloads into space in support of the U.S. military's tactically responsive space initiative.

Recently, ABL Space Systems was assigned Space Launch Complex 15 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida - a historic launch pad used for Titan 1 and 2 launches in the 1960s. The company will temporarily use SLC-46, a pad previously utilized by several other vehicles, to conduct launches until renovations at SLC-15 are complete.

Lockheed Martin, a strategic investor and major customer of ABL, signed a contract in April 2021 for as many as 58 RS1 launches through the end of the decade. In addition, it has selected the RS1 to perform its “U.K. Pathfinder” launch from the SaxaVord Spaceport in the Shetland Islands, with the launch scheduled for later in 2023.

ABL is one of four small-launch startups that have been assigned historic launch pads at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, indicating the company's growing influence in the commercial launch industry.