Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles
Appendix 4: Undesignated Vehicles
Copyright © 2024 Andreas Parsch

Generation Orbit X-60 GOLauncher 1

Generation Orbit has been developing its GOLauncher 1 rocket since at least 2013. In 2014, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) awarded the company an SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) contract for further development of the design as a hypersonic test vehicle. In September 2018, the official designation X-60A was allocated by the Air Force. The goal of the X-60 program was to develop a multi-purpose test tool for all aspects of hypersonic flight applications. It was to increase flight frequency and lower the costs for maturing hypersonic technology.

Image: SpaceWorks

The X-60A is designed to be carried aloft by a business jet class aircraft, like e.g. a Gulfstream III. Released in a climb at high subsonic speed, the X-60A ignites its liquid-fueled rocket motor to accelerate to hypersonic cruise speed or zoom to maximum altitude. The payload section in the nose can expose various equipment weighing up to 320 kg (700 lb), e.g. a small scramjet engine, to hypersonic flight conditions.

Photo: Generation Orbit
Captive-carry test of GOLauncher 1 inert test article

By December 2017, three captive-carry flights of full-scale inert GOLauncher 1 vehicles had been completed. In March 2019, the X-60A had passed its critical design review, and by January 2020, ground tests and static firings of the propulsion system had been successfully completed. At that time, the first free flight of the X-60A was planned for March 2020, but in February, AFRL announced that this would be delayed to "later that year", without quoting specific reasons.

After February 2020, no further news items about the X-60A seem to exist. Specifically, no solid information about a first flight, more delays, or a program cancellation is available. However, the current website of SpaceWorks (parent company of Generation Orbit) lists the X-60A (and an "X-60C") under "Past Projects", which is a good indication that the program is effectively dead.


Note: Data given by several sources show slight variations. Figures given below may therefore be inaccurate!

Data for X-60A:

LengthBooster: 4.9 m (16 ft)
Payload section: up to 3 m (10 ft)
Wingspan1.7 m (5.5 ft)
Weightca. 1360 kg (3000 lb)
SpeedMach 5+
Ceiling> 21300 m (70000 ft)
Propulsion1 Hadley liquid-propellant rocket

Main Sources

[1] Michael H. Gorn, Giuseppe de Chiara: "X-Planes from the X-1 to the X-60", Springer, 2021
[2] SpaceWorks: X-60A
[3] AFRL: X-60A Hypersonic Flight Research Vehicle
[4] USAF: X-60A program conducts integrated vehicle propulsion system verification test
[5] Jane's: AFRL delays first X-60A flight (from the 2020 Internet Archive)

Back to Directory of U.S. Military Rockets and Missiles, Appendix 4

Last Updated: 25 January 2024