DARPA Launch Challenge (DLC)

April 16, 2018 - December 31, 2019

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Hosted By: DARPA


Anywhere. Anytime. The DARPA Launch Challenge aims to demonstrate flexible and responsive launch capabilities in days, not years, for our nation’s defense.


Our nation’s space architecture is built around a limited number of exquisite systems. Typical developments span up to 10 years to build, test, and launch spacecraft.

DARPA wants to demonstrate the ability to launch payloads to orbit on extremely short notice, with no prior knowledge of the payload, destination orbit or launch site, and do it not just once, but twice, in a matter of days.

The commercial industry has embraced advances in manufacturing, microtechnologies, and autonomous launch/range infrastructure, and DARPA seeks to leverage this expertise to transform space system development.


The launch environment of the future will more closely resemble airline operations — with frequent launches from myriad locations worldwide. DARPA seeks to accelerate capabilities that are unconstrained to allow for flexibility and resilience, rather than one-of-a-kind, fixed infrastructure.


Teams will receive days’ notice to first launch site. After successfully delivering their payload to low Earth orbit (LEO), teams will get information about the second launch site. Teams again will be given days to successfully deliver their second payload to LEO.


At the end of 2019, teams will rapidly launch a payload into two orbits, with minimal notification, from different launch sites – one just days after the other – for an opportunity to win the $10M first prize.

  • Apr 2018 – Challenge Announcement
  • Dec 2018 – Challenge Applications Close
  • Q1 2019 – Challenge Participants Announced
  • Q4 2019 – Launches 1 & 2


The teams will compete against the “Time Value of Launch,” a new metric of importance that incorporates cost, accuracy, and speed.

  • Qualify – $400K
  • Launch 1 – $2M
  • Launch 2 – 1st, $10M; 2nd, $9M; 3rd, $8M


For more details and to learn how to participate, download the 2018 04 18 Launch Challenge Guidelines.


Register to learn more about the challenge at the May 23, 2018, industry day in Los Angeles. Representatives from DARPA and the FAA, which licenses commercial space launches, will provide details about the vision, key milestones, and an opportunity for one-on-one Q&A.

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