Suborbital Payload Launch
One of the pioneers of commercial suborbital flights, Armadillo Aerospace, announced that it was suspending operations in early August 2013 due to funding issues. Founded by noted video game designer John Carmack, Armadillo Aerospace steadily developed and tested a series of ever-improving vertical take-off, reusable rocket-powered vehicles.
Virgin Galactic announced at the 2012 Farnborough Air Show that, in addition to providing a passenger service, it would be developing a low-cost satellite launcher using the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane. By replacing SpaceShipTwo with a small two-stage rocket, called LauncherOne, the company predicted that it could send payloads of up to ## kilograms (## pounds) into LEO for less than $## million.
Blue Origin, a secretive company funded by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos, revealed in September 2011 that in August it had suffered a failure of one of its New Shepard suborbital test vehicles. The company reported that it lost control of its PM 2 vehicle at an altitude of 13,700 meters (45,000 feet) and a speed of Mach 1.2.
There is growing interest in suborbital reusable launch vehicles to conduct experiments and research. Masten Space Systems of Mojave, California, is developing the Extreme Altitude series of unmanned suborbital vehicles to carry experimental payloads. The company is offering to launch payloads at a price of $## per kilogram ($## per pound), or a “Sodasat” payload for $##, so named because its size and mass is similar to that of a can of soda.
The primary advantages of sounding rockets are their low cost, comparative ease of transport, ability to be launched from locations on land or sea, and relatively short turnaround times between mission concept and launch. These characteristics make sounding rockets a frequent choice of university science programs and research institutes that require less expensive access to space, enabling space-based experiments that might not otherwise receive funding.
Long-range missiles travel through space, reaching apogees of 950-1100 kilometers, or about five times the altitude of what is generally considered the threshold of low Earth orbit. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) and Submarine Launched Ballistic Missiles (SLBM) are intended to carry a warhead, typically nuclear, as a payload on a suborbital ballistic trajectory. In the United States, ICBMs fall under the purview of U.S. Air Force Space Command. Funding for their maintenance and operation falls within the major force program for DoD space spending.
Space Services Inc. of Houston, Texas, offers memorial spaceflights, launching a symbolic portion of a person’s cremated remains into space. These memorials are a small secondary payload on a commercial or scientific satellite launch. Space Services offers Earth return services, Earth orbit services, lunar services, and Voyager (deep space) services.
Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) fly a ballistic trajectory, normally intended to carry a nuclear warhead as a payload. While they do not orbit the Earth, the apogee of their flight brings them to altitudes at and well above LEO.