Start-up looks to launch microsatellites from hot air balloon

Leo Aerospace Inc., a start-up with origins in Purdue University, has successfully test fired a rocket from a platform attached to a hot air balloon. The company plans to develop a system for launching microsatellites into space.

Microsatellites, as their name implies, are small satellites about the size of a toaster and weighing up to around 25kg. Due to their relatively small size, their deployment often needs to wait for leftover space to become available on a suitable launch vehicle, a process that can take months. Microsatellites also tend to fall out of orbit after just one to five years, so they need replacing more often than larger satellites.

To address this problem, Leo Aerospace plans to launch the small satellites with its “rockoon” rocket, which will launch from a reusable hot air balloon platform. These rockets will launch from an altitude of 11 miles, where the atmosphere is 95% thinner, so smaller rockets with less fuel can still make it into orbit.

The company’s chief executive officer, Dane Rudy, who also graduated from Purdue’s School of Mechanical Engineering, said:

“We at Leo believe it should be as easy to put a microsatellite into space as it is to ship a package across the country. There will be no more need for ridesharing or hitchhiking.”

Following its successful test launch, the LA-based company is looking to acquire $8 million (£6.1m) in funding for the next two years. It hopes to begin launching microsatellites into orbit by 2022.

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