Private Firm Launches Test Shot From Spaceport America

This story was updated on Dec. 21.

UP Aerospace launched a rocket from New Mexico's Spaceport America on Dec. 19, conducting a brief test shot that was both non-public and unannounced prior to the flight.

In a press statement, Jerry Larson, President of UP Aerospace noted that the flight was carried out for an unspecified client for research and development purposes. The rocket reached a planned altitude of 2,500 feet, he said.

The flight was announced by the New Mexico Spaceport Authority, noting that it was the second successful launch this year from the Spaceport America site near Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In April, the Connecticut-based UP Aerospace flew from Spaceport America its SpaceLoft XL rocket, flying an array of payloads, including the cremated remains of more than 200 people on a suborbital flight for the Houston, Texas-based Celestis, Inc.

UP Aerospace carried out the inaugural mission from Spaceport America in September 2006, but the rocket failed to reach its desired trajectory.

The New Mexico spaceport site is approximately 70 square kilometers of open, generally level range land north of Las Cruces and east of Truth or Consequences. This location was favored for its low population density, uncongested airspace and high elevation.

Emerging rocket technologies

A few extra details on the test shot were provided to from Eric Knight, co-founder of Up Aerospace, Inc.

“The client was a large aerospace company, but due to confidentiality, we can’t release the name, Knight explained. The low-altitude flight was designed solely for research and development purposes, he said, meeting all its technical objectives.

“It was a successful test for our client,” Knight explained. “The flight wasn't intended to be a space launch. It was specifically designed to test new and emerging rocket technologies.”

Knight said that the unidentified client plans additional launches with UP Aerospace, likely doing another flight in the first quarter of 2008. Another similar client – another major aerospace company -- wishes to perform similar flights utilizing UP Aerospace launch services, he added.

“This is an additional, exciting -- and rapidly growing -- business segment for our company. It complements the commercial and educational space-launch payload services we provide via our SpaceLoft XL suborbital rocket vehicle,” Knight concluded.