Sounding Rocket Launched at Spaceport America

SL-9 launch (Credit: Spaceport America)
SL-9 launch (Credit: Spaceport America)

SPACEPORT AMERICA, NM – New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) officials announced the launch today of the third NASA “Flight Opportunities Program” rocket from Spaceport America. The launch of SpaceLoft™ XL 9 (SL-9), which was designed to reach sub-orbital space, took place this morning from Spaceport America’s Launch Complex-1. Today’s liftoff marks the 21st launch at Spaceport America and the 13th flight conducted by UP Aerospace, the spaceport’s oldest launch customer. NASA successfully launched two similar research rockets from the spaceport last year.

The successful launch of NASA’s SL-9 commercial-space, research- payload rocket took place at 7:33 AM (MDT), which was within the dedicated 2-hour launch window, and flight data indicate the rocket attained a maximum altitude of approximately 124 km or 77 miles, beating the old Spaceport America alitude record by 4 miles. The parachute recovery system brought the SpaceLoft™ rocket and its payload safely back and it was recovered intact 40 km or 25 miles downrange on White Sands Missile Range as planned.

“It’s great to see NASA return to Spaceport America for another successful ‘Flight Opportunities’ sub -orbital launch mission today,” said NMSA Executive Director Christine Anderson. “We also want to congratulate UP Aerospace, who has been launching with us for eight years.”

The SL-9 sub-orbital sounding rocket, provided by UP Aerospace, is part of the NASA “Flight Opportunities Program,” which is designed to provide sub-orbital payload launch resources for NASA, educational institutions and the private sector. Some of the “Flight Opportunities” payload customers for this launch include: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), Controlled Dynamics, Barcelona Tec: NASA test payload, Montana State University: NASA test payload, Celestis, Inc., and the Ninkasi Brewing Company.

Today’s SL-9 mission was originally scheduled to liftoff from Spaceport America on Monday, October 20th but was rescheduled due to poor weather conditions.



UP Aerospace was created in 1998 by founder Jerry Larson and incorporated in 2004 with its headquarters located in Denver, Colorado. UP Aerospace has been successfully conducting launches from Spaceport America in New Mexico since 2006. With this launch, the company has conducted a total of 13 launch campaigns from the spaceport, of which eight were SpaceLoft launch vehicles and four additional launches of proprietary systems for Lockheed Martin and MOOG. UP Aerospace’s launch operations and SpaceLoft vehicles are designed and built from the ground up as a highly reliable, low-cost Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) system. Flight hardware reusability has been a key program requirement for the SpaceLoft launch program, enabling further advancements in low-cost space launch operations.  UP Aerospace has successfully demonstrated and refined launch and integration services spanning over seven years and over 50 individual payload customers.

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Spaceport America is the first purpose-built commercial spaceport in the world. The launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, has been providing commercial vertical launch services since 2006. Spaceport America has hosted 21 vertical launches thus far. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority continues to work closely with its tenants, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX, and its other flight customers in support of the commercial space industry.

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