DARPA has shortlisted 8 launch sites—5 vertical and 3 horizontal—for the still-really-odd-to-me DARPA Launch Challenge. Nothing really surprising about the launch sites they picked, but this tidbit in Jeff Foust’s SpaceNews article is quite interesting:
DARPA also announced Nov. 6 that 18 teams had passed the first step in the competition, a pre-qualification phase. In that phase, DARPA confirmed that the teams had proposed “a viable solution for flexible and responsive launch,” according to its statement. DARPA didn’t list the teams that completed pre-qualification but plans to later identify the teams that complete the overall qualification phase.
That is a ton of teams—18!—competing for this. If it was DARPA’s intention to shake some stealth mode launch companies out of the shadows, it seems like maybe they’ve done that.