The Defense Innovation Unit selected The Spaceport Company to demonstrate the ability to use a sea-based launch platform to quickly send cargo or satellites to orbit.

The company, headquartered in Woodbridge, Virginia, builds floating launch pads that could allow commercial companies or the Defense Department to fly payloads offshore. The concept is particularly relevant amid unprecedented launch rates, which are increasingly causing congestion at U.S. ranges.

“A sea-based launch platform is a strategically significant capability that increases equatorial launch access while enabling responsive launch coordination and avoiding high-traffic airspace,” DIU said in a May 28 statement announcing the deal.

The award is part of a DIU effort called Novel Responsive Space Delivery, which aims to prototype commercial solutions that support responsive and precise space launch capabilities. That could include using a rocket to send cargo from one point on Earth to another, between two satellites in orbit, or from one location in space to another.

“Responsive and reliable logistics and sustainment lines of communication are essential to the Warfighter,” Austin Baker, Deputy Portfolio Director for DIU’s space portfolio, said in the statement. “By prototyping commercial solutions for the delivery of cargo and other supplies to, through and from space, we will equip the Joint Force with new methods for sustainment that directly address this need and provide a unique competitive advantage.”

DIU first solicited bids for the effort in June 2023, and Baker said the project received a strong response from industry. The award to The Spaceport Company is the first of multiple announcements.

The firm demonstrated its sea-based launch concept in May 2023, flying four payloads from a mobile pad floating in the Gulf of Mexico. Last year, DIU’s National Security Innovation Capital program awarded the firm a separate $1.5 million contract to further the development of its launch infrastructure.

DIU’s work will feed into several ongoing Defense Department efforts to explore the use of commercial capabilities to quickly deliver cargo around the globe and to respond to real-time threats in space through dynamic launch and in-orbit operations. That includes the Space Force’s Rocket Cargo effort as well as its Tactically Responsive Space program.

Courtney Albon is C4ISRNET’s space and emerging technology reporter. She has covered the U.S. military since 2012, with a focus on the Air Force and Space Force. She has reported on some of the Defense Department’s most significant acquisition, budget and policy challenges.

More In Space