Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) has completed the GO1 Inert Test Article captive carry flight test program. Under a public-private partnership with NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center, GO developed the GO1-ITA, a mass properties and outer mold line simulator for the GO1 hypersonic flight testbed and earned NASA airworthiness approval for flight on NASA’s C-20a.
NASA’s C-20a was originally modified to add a centerline hard point to carry the Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) pod. Together with the NASA Armstrong team, a campaign of three flight tests was conducted, successfully completing all test objectives including clearing the operational flight envelope of the C-20a with the GO1-ITA mounted to the centerline hard point, as well as demonstration of the unique launch maneuver designed for air launch of the GO1 on operational flights starting in 2019. Data collected during the campaign will be used to validate models and inform the ongoing design and development of GO1.
The GO-NASA partnership was conducted under a 2015 NASA Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Announcement of Collaborative Opportunity (ACO): Utilizing Public-Private Partnerships to Advance Emerging Space Technology System Capabilities entitled “Technology Maturation and Flight Validation for Air Launched Liquid Rockets.” The non-reimbursable Space Act Agreement was signed in April 2016.
GO CEO, AJ Piplica, commented on the completion of the program: “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, program manager for NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
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.”
Atlanta-based Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. (GO) focuses on providing fast, flexible, and dedicated space transportation services for small payloads. The unique air launch approach developed by GO and its partners offers flexible launch capabilities, poised to reduce fixed infrastructure needs, launch costs, and the time from contract signature to launch. Air launch system experience at GO dates back over 10 years, providing a distinct advantage throughout the design and analysis process. As a systems integrator, GO compiles multiple aspects of the launch architecture to provide a streamlined service to government and industry customers alike.
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center