The NE-1 Rocket Launch Service is bringing space within reach of the general public by offering an affordable way for universities, private organizations, and even individual space enthusiasts to send objects into space and back. The low-cost, reusable NE-1 rocket will boost payloads of less than 5kg on a sub-orbital trajectory to an altitude of 120km. Near apogee the payload will experience around 3 minutes of free fall while being exposed to the hard vacuum and radiation above the earth’s atmosphere. Upon re-entering the atmosphere parachutes will deploy and allow for recovery of the payload and rocket.
The current aerospace climate in the US is shifting heavily towards the privatization of space. While opinions and results of this change are mixed, it has succeeded in pointing out that small and nimble private companies can achieve dramatic results using a fraction of the resources needed by government programs or the giant aerospace corporations that have led the field in the past. That said, the strategy of the NE-1 Rocket Launch Service is easy: keep it small, and keep it simple. This goes for the design and the business. By keeping the design simple and the operation private and small, launch costs will remain low.
Rocket Launch Service LLC is a Wisconsin based company. The current availability of launch sites in the Midwest is quite limited, so initial flights may launch from the Mojove Air and Space Port in California. Travel and shipping expenses to this launch site dominate the launch costs. An exciting alternative is the local Spaceport Sheboygan on the shore of Lake Michigan. With the development of additional facilities at Spaceport Sheboygan, launching locally would halve the cost of a launch.
Launch services will be provided by the NE-1 rocket (currently under development). The first flight is scheduled for July 2014. Payload space on this flight can be purchased through Kickstarter.