- Covering the Past, Present and Future of
LOFT-1 FACT SHEET
Written and Edited by Cliff Lethbridge
Classification: Research Rocket
Length: 10 feet, 3 inches
Diameter: 8 inches
Finspan: 2 feet, 5 inches
Number Launched from
Described as a "little rocket with a big mission",
LOFT-1 was built by E-Prime Aerospace Corporation of
Entrepreneurs at E-Prime Aerospace Corporation had envisioned a number of rockets with payload capabilities ranging from 675 pounds to 20,300 pounds which could be introduced as early as late 1990. The company's decision to develop these rockets was precipitated by a far-reaching post-Challenger tragedy decision by NASA to stop launching commercial payloads.
The decision by NASA opened up a virgin
Launch of LOFT-1 was targeted for October, 1987 but a
mountain of paperwork caused the launch to be postponed until November 17,
1988. Even so, LOFT-1 earned the distinction of being the first fully
commercial launch in the history of
The LOFT-1 motor and airframe were built by Vulcan Systems of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The rocket was divided into three sections - a solid-fueled rocket motor at the bottom, a parachute section in the middle and a payload section at the top. The solid-fueled rocket motor was capable of producing a liftoff thrust of 15,602 pounds.
Following launch, the solid-fueled rocket motor burned for
just 4.4 seconds, capable of boosting the rocket to a speed of about 1,400
feet-per-second. The rocket maintained an unpowered coast for another 25
seconds until reaching its highest altitude of about 14,500 feet. The rocket
then began falling toward the
Splashdown was intended to occur about two miles downrange of the launch site, where recovery operations would begin. LOFT-1 carried four scientific experiments representing three universities and two high schools. Although the parachute system failed to operate properly and the payload section was damaged upon water impact, the experiments were successfully recovered.
Although E-Prime Aerospace Corporation had surprised many by
its ability to beat established rocket manufacturers in conducting the first
commercial rocket launch from
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