High-rise rocketry. Leo Aerospace prepares balloon to loft launch vehicle as a forerunner test for hurling microsatellites into Earth orbit.
Credit: Leo Aerospace/Purdue University

Leo Aerospace LLC has given notice that the group had a successful launch of a rocket from a high-altitude balloon – a concept that team members see as making space accessible to microsatellites.

The startup idea was developed while they were students at Purdue University.

Leo Aerospace is a Purdue University-affiliated startup based in Los Angeles, California.

Motivation behind the balloon-assisted rocket launch is to help end the backlog of microsatellites that wait months or longer to “hitch” a ride on larger rockets.

Up, up and away. Rocket departs balloon.
Credit: Leo Aerospace/Purdue University/Inside Outer Space Screengrab

Reusable launch pad

Leo Aerospace launched its first “rockoon,” a high-power rocket from a reusable balloon platform, from the Mojave Desert in southern California in December.

In a Purdue press statement, Leo Aerospace aims to revolutionize access to space for those looking to launch small satellites about the size of toasters, weighing up to 25 kilograms, or about 110 pounds. It plans to be a “dedicated” launch for microsatellites, serving one customer at a time.

Credit: Leo Aerospace

Using the high-altitude balloon as a launch pad will save money because it will deploy the rocket from up to 11 miles into the atmosphere. At that altitude, there is 95 percent less atmosphere, meaning there is much less drag. That means Leo Aerospace can use smaller rockets and less fuel.

Leo Aerospace already has begun taking letters of intent from microsatellite companies. In step-wise fashion, the group plans to begin doing suborbital launches next year and break the edge of space by 2021. Suborbital launches allow scientists to gather information about the atmosphere and other research data.

The goal is to be able to start launching microsatellites into orbit by 2022.

Go to this video showing the launch at:


For more information on Leo Aerospace, go to:


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