In May, he will finally show off his blue rocket at a vertical launch pad at Spaceport America in New Mexico. Larson hopes to create a new market for commercial air cargo and in a way make his startup company, Up Aerospace, the U.S. Airways for stuff. Virgin Galactic is making space tourism possible, so it’s reasonable to think Up Aerospace could do the same for cargo.
The cost of a single rocket is $200,000, which is much cheaper than the millions of dollars it costs NASA. The rockets are hydraulically driven and are controlled by a remote control. This May, U.S. Navy experiments, school kid projects, and cremated remains will hitch a ride in Larson’s rocket. But they will have to share a ride in separate compartments.
Last year, Larson had three launches.
“It’s unheard of kids designing experiments for space and actually getting them back. My favorite was sending bubble wrap into space. An 8-year-old boy wanted to know if his the bubble wrap would pop in space,” Larson says.
Larson started Up Aerospace in 2004, after working as an engineer for Lockheed Martin. In his Lockheed Martin days, he designed and built rockets. But he also headed a team of hobbyists for nine years in his free time.
Finally in 2004, they set a world record for launching an amateur rocket into space. It was called the GoFast rocket and it reached 72 miles. Ky, a Hollywood stuntman, who knows how to build all things rockets was a member of the team and has gone on to build other rockets: rocket wheelchairs, rocket toilets, and the list goes on.
If the record can be broken once, it can certainly be broken again — at least that’s the way Larson sees it. So Larson became obsessed with the idea that he could launch rockets into space.
“I was convinced we could build rockets significantly cheaper than NASA,” Larson says, which is why he says he started his company. “Our rockets don’t have enough power to go into orbit and stay in space. It actually flies suborbital. We are trying to build and design bigger vehicles to send into orbit.”
Three Up Aerospace guys need three months to build a rocket. Larson does most of the heavy lifting until the day of launch.
“There is no rocket on Earth that launches things for a million dollars or less. I like setting world records,” Larson says.
Only time will tell.
Images: Up Aerospace