On Friday, ABL Space Systems announced design updates to its RS1 launch vehicle, an increase in payload capacity, and a decrease in price.
The upgraded RS1 has a larger six-foot diameter and is powered by a new family of gas generator engines, E1 and E2. The vehicle's design capacity is 1,200 kilograms to 200-kilometer, low inclination orbit, or 875 kg to 500-km sun-synchronous orbit. RS1 is priced at $12 million per launch, or as low as $10,000 per kilogram.
"In both engineering and manufacturing, small launch vehicles are fundamentally simpler than large launch vehicles, and there are many opportunities for efficiency gains," said ABL CEO Harry O'Hanley.
Founded in 2017, ABL recently completed its first development vehicle and conducted a successful tanking test.
ABL is planning an RS1 stage test in the second half of 2019, with a target first launch in 2020.
"The global launch vehicle market is still missing a truly low-cost option in the 500-1,500 kg capacity range," said ABL CFO Dan Piemont. "We're confident RS1 fills an important role in the market for a variety of mission profiles, including bulk deployment of cubesats, deployment of three to five larger, more capable satellites, or dedicated launch of satellites with aggressive mission requirements."
ABL Space Systems was founded by former SpaceX engineering leaders in 2017 to develop low-cost launch vehicles for the small satellite industry. The company is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., where it has 30,000 square feet of facilities for research, development, and production. ABL is a privately-owned corporation backed by a premier group of private equity investors.