JP Aerospace is a small, largely volunteer, organization based in Rancho Cordova, California. Its Founder and President is John Marchel Powell.
JP Aerospace's operations to date have been largely directed toward sounding rockets and ballooning applications, including a US Air Force contract for a high altitude airship platform. They are best known for their highly successful PongSat® program to loft upper atmosphere experiments free of charge for high schools and other customers, which has provided relatively steady sponsorship for their operations. The organization began in the late 1970's with an attempt to pursue a NASA feasibility study grant, and graduated to other projects, including an early prototype for diagnostic mini-satellites for use with the NASA space shuttle. During the 1990's, JP Aerospace began pursuing alternative launch technologies for small orbital satellites as well as technologies for high altitude airship travel. Their initial focus was on the use of rockoon launch systems, and included an attempt at winning the CATS Prize. However, they are notable for their current program to realize Powell's Airship to Orbit launch scheme.
There is considerable controversy over whether the Airship to Orbit system is even physically capable of flights to orbit. The official position of JP Aerospace is that the operation of their proposed launch system is a trade secret, and while some information has been made available they decline to answer questions on key points. However, the three-part nature of the ascent planned from surface to orbit leaves commercial possibilities for each system component if the overall system fails to perform as advertised.
Unmanned prototypes of their Ascender system component have been successfully flown, and models of other system components have been tested in an ongoing development program.
The only JP Aerospace launch vehicle currently available is their balloon-launched Microsat Launcher (ML) series suborbital/sounding rocket, which is capable of ascents to altitudes above 100km. The complete ML launch system for space launches is a rockoon. The ML uses a separate re-loadable solid fueled rocket motor, and like many larger sounding rockets, the ML is re-usable.
- Payload: As Loaded (2kg to 100km using 2-stage configuration with balloon-launch)
- Altitude: As Loaded (5km to >100km)
- Payload Fairing: 15 cm
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