AFRL + ABL Space Systems collaborate to demonstrate launch systems that can be operated quickly via small teams from non-traditional sites – SatNews

the Air Force Research Laboratoryor AFRL, and ABL space systems, collaborate to demonstrate how launch systems can be operated quickly by small teams from non-traditional locations. Leveraging ABL’s deployable ground system, GS0and small launcher, RS1a series of ground demonstrations are underway at several US military installations aimed at quickly training participants to activate GS0 and simulate preparing for an orbital launch.

Photo of the RS1 rocket, courtesy of ABL Space Systems.

ABL and AFRL have joined forces with operators in the 2nd Space Launch Squadron and 412th Test Wing conduct the first demonstration activity. The complete test campaign, from training to full operations with cryogenic propellants, was completed in a few days. In doing so, ABL and its partners successfully determined the minimum resources to activate GS0 and validated the strong training base and capability of active duty Air Force and Space Force personnel to carry out the concept of liquid rocket operations and fielding new deployable systems.

While traditional launch operations are planned months or years in advance, ABL is working to demonstrate systems capable of preparing a new orbital launch site from any flat concrete pad in less than 24 hours with a small team of staff. While the launch status quo requires significant investment in fixed infrastructure, ABL’s systems, which are packaged in standard shipping containers, require no lifting equipment to operate. The AFRL tests the autonomy of these systems, conducts experiments and evaluates the speed with which qualified operators can be trained to operate them.

By AFWERX, part of the AFRL, this demonstration campaign brought together players from across the national security space enterprise, including acquisition, science, technology and operations. These diverse perspectives ensure that the capabilities being developed can better support next-generation missions.

ABL and its partners are preparing for a second demonstration activity in the coming months, which aims to extend operational realism by incorporating additional elements and operations. The second demo will include the live deployment of the GS0 mobile launch infrastructure as well as the integration of the RS1 launcher operations. Systems will arrive at a single site with a concrete slab at Vandenberg Space Force BaseCalifornia.

Newly trained operators will activate support systems, lift a vehicle stage using ABL’s deployable launch support; thruster fully loaded; perform a countdown to throw; simulate friction; and restore a safe buffer state. These activities are essential to demonstrate the feasibility of rapid launch operations; refine operational concepts; identify technical challenges; and increase technology readiness for a responsive and resilient DOD launch capability.

The ability to control, operate and access the space domain is vital to our nation“, said Dr. Shawn Phillips, head of the rocket propulsion division of the AFRL. “Space launch must be dynamic, responsive, and provide the capability to rapidly augment or replenish capability gaps. ABL’s RS1 and GS0 systems provide a uniquely flexible capability to provide warfighters the ability to achieve these objectives by conducting orbital launch operations anytime, anywhere desired..”

We optimize RS1 and GS0 for lean operations,” mentioned Dan Piedmont, Co-founder and president of the ABL. “We explore how this flexibility can bring unique value to the Department of Defense. “As space becomes more contested and competitive, new mission profiles will emerge, and we must be able to adapt to their needs in a timely manner without introducing prohibitive cost..”

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