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Spaceport America reports successful SpaceLoft launch

aluanchALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Spaceport Authority officials on Tuesday confirmed the successful launch of the second NASA “Flight Opportunities Program” rocket from Spaceport America at 9:12 a.m.

The public launch of SpaceLoft XL8 — designed to reach suborbital space — took place at Spaceport America’s Launch Complex 1, officials said in a news release.

The liftoff marked the 20th launch from Spaceport America and the 12th flight conducted by UP Aerospace, signed up as a long-term Spaceport customer.

Flight data indicated the rocket attained a maximum altitude of approximately 72.2 miles and the parachute recovery system brought the SpaceLoft rocket back for recovery about 25 miles down range on White Sands Missile Range as planned, officials said.

“It is great to have NASA back at Spaceport America and to have the opportunity to support their second ‘Flight Opportunities’ suborbital launch today,” said NMSA Executive Director Christine Anderson.

One of the experiments on the rocket was designed so students could chat constantly with ground crews throughout the mission by phone and text messaging, thanks to a project by the Albuquerque-based satellite phone distributor Satwest LLC, which is placing a satellite communications system on the vehicle.

The Satwest experiment was one of six payloads chosen by NASA to fly on UP’s reusable rocket, called the SpaceLoft.

UP is one of seven companies awarded contracts under NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, which pays aerospace firms for suborbital flights to test new technologies in space.

UP could earn a total of $4.7 million for eight NASA flights called for in its contract. The company earned about $600,000 for the June flight, and it will earn about the same for the upcoming one, said UP President and CEO Jerry Larson.

Apart from the Satwest experiment, the flight included four university-developed payloads and one from the U.S. Department of Defense Operationally Responsive Space Office at Kirtland Air Force Base:

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University placed a “missile grade” GPS receiver on the rocket to test its ability to work in space at high speed and rapidly changing angles. The DOD is also testing a new GPS receiver on the flight.

Spain’s Barcelona Tech and the University of Alabama jointly tested how different fluids react in a microgravity environment.

New Mexico State University tested a new technology to accurately read fuel levels on vehicles in space.

The New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology had a structural monitoring device on the Spaceloft that could help detect damage on rockets and satellites in the future.