ABL Space Systems
TypePrivately held company
FoundedAugust 2017
  • Dan Piemont
  • Harry O'Hanley
El Segundo, California
Key people
Number of employees
100 (2021)

ABL Space Systems is a company based in El Segundo, California, undertaking launch vehicle and launch systems technology development using CNC and 3D printing and minimized launch operations. The company manufactures its components in the United States.[1] Harry O'Hanley is the Chief executive officer (CEO) and Dan Piemont is the Chief financial officer (CFO) of ABL Space Systems.[1]


ABL Space Systems was founded in 2017 by Harry O'Hanley and Dan Piemont, former SpaceX and Morgan Stanley employees. The RS-1 is a planned launch system using two stages. It will offer a maximum capacity of 1,350 kg (2,980 lb) to low Earth orbit (LEO).[2]

In 2018, ABL Space Systems signed a lease with Camden County, Georgia for future operations in Spaceport Camden.[3]

In 2019, the company signed with Spaceport America in New Mexico to locate its testing operations and facilities there.[4]


In 2019, ABL Space conducted testing of the E2 rocket engine at the company's test facilities at Spaceport America, New Mexico, which “provided the perfect location and support staff for us to test the E2 rocket engine". The test was considered a success.[4]

In early 2020, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) joined with ABL Space Systems to test and develop rocket-propulsion components.[5] In October 2020, the second stage with E2 engine was tested at Edwards Air Force Base.[6]

On 19 January 2022, an anomaly during testing at Mojave Air and Space Port resulted in the destruction of the second stage of the RS1 rocket, which was later confirmed by the President of ABL Space Systems.[7] On 27 January, the source of the anomaly was publicly identified by ABL's CEO Harry O'Hanley as being one of the second stage's E2 Vacuum engine's turbopump suffering a hard start, which led to a “substantial fire on the aft end of the vehicle, resulting in a complete failure about 20 seconds later".[8]

Planned launches

St. Marys, Georgia - launch site

In 2018, ABL contracted with the city of St. Marys, Georgia in Camden County to use the former St. Marys Airport (FAA LID: 4J6) as a launch site.[9] The former airport is about 7 km (4.3 mi) from the East Coast at Cumberland Island, Georgia, and would be part of the Spaceport Camden range.

Inaugural flight

The first RS1 flight is planned for 2022 from the Pacific Spaceport Complex on Kodiak Island.[10]

A launch from Scotland

On 7 February 2021, Lockheed Martin United Kingdom announced a contract with ABL to launch the UK Pathfinder (6 CubeSats) in 2022, from the Shetland Space Centre on the island of Unst, Scotland.[11][12]

Two Kuiper prototypes

On 1 November 2021, Amazon announced that the first two prototype satellites of the Kuiper constellation, KuiperSat-1 and KuiperSat-2, would be launched using RS1 in the fourth quarter of 2022.[13]

RS1 rocket

Each stage powered by ABL's E2 rocket engine, nine in the first stage, and one in the second stage. They are powered by RP-1 kerosene with liquid oxygen (LOX) as the oxidizer.[2]

The containerized launch system and rocket can be deployed to and launched from a suitably flat site, the main requirements being access for trucks capable of carrying up to 16 m (52 ft) ISO containers (for the RS-1 first stage), and a flat concrete pad 46 m (151 ft) x 15 m (49 ft).

As of April 2020 ABL Space Systems is planning the first orbital launch of its RS1 rocket in 2022. The firm received contracts worth US$44.5 million from the U.S. Air Force, as well as private funding equaling US$49 million. According to Dan Piemont, the US$44.5 million Air Force contracts[14] include a one-year deal from the tech incubator AFWERX to demonstrate launch technology and an agreement with Space and Missile Systems Center's Space Enterprise Consortium to conduct three demonstrations of a RS1 vehicle variant and deployable ground infrastructure in 2022.

The RS1 is capable of carrying a payload of 1,350 kg (2,980 lb) to the low Earth orbit.[15] It is 27 m (89 ft) tall.

Launches are planned to cost US$12 million per flight.[6]


In 2019, it was planned to have Three E1 engines, each producing 42,000 pounds-force of thrust to power the rocket's first stage. A single E2 engine, with 13,000 pounds-force of thrust, will be used on the rocket's second stage. Both engines will use liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants. The first development build of the vehicle has been completed.[16]


  1. ^ a b "ABL Space Systems Company". ABL Space Systems. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b "Even Rockets Can Be Simple". ABL Space Systems. 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  3. ^ "ABL Space Systems Signs Lease with JDA to Begin Operations in Camden County". Business Wire. 17 September 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  4. ^ a b Clark, Carol A. (29 December 2019). "Spaceport America announces test operations of ABL Space Systems". Los Alamos Daily Post. Retrieved 16 November 2021.
  5. ^ "Rocket Report". Ars Technica. 7 January 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  6. ^ a b "ABL Space Systems tests launch vehicle stage". SpaceNews. 22 October 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  7. ^ "ABL Space Systems rocket stage destroyed in test accident". SpaceNews. 20 January 2022. Retrieved 26 January 2022.
  8. ^ "ABL Space Systems test accident to delay first launch by three months". SpaceNews. 27 January 2022. Retrieved 28 January 2022.
  9. ^ "ABL Space Systems". Parabolic Arc. 19 September 2018. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  10. ^ Foust, Jeff (16 September 2021). "ABL Space Systems to launch NASA technology demonstration mission". SpaceNews. Retrieved 16 September 2021.
  11. ^ "Lockheed Martin selects ABL Space Systems for UK launch". SpaceNews. 7 February 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  12. ^ "British military's space campaign picks up steam with "Skynet" upgrade". C4ISRNET. 8 February 2021. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  13. ^ "Amazon's satellite launch schedule puts it nearly 4 years behind Starlink". 1 November 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2021.
  14. ^ "AFRL awards agreements under Aerospike Rocket Integration and Sub-orbital Experiment (ARISE) Program". Wright-Patterson AFB. 13 April 2020. Retrieved 22 May 2021. Public Domain This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ "Small launch startup ABL secures over US$90 million in new funding and Air Force contracts". SpaceNews. 3 August 2020. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  16. ^ "ABL Space Systems increases performance and cuts price of its small launch vehicle". SpaceNews. 1 February 2019. Retrieved 15 February 2021.