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Boeing is designing a new rocket to affordably launch microsatellites into space from an F-15E, announced the company. DARPA awarded Boeing's Phantom Works an 11-month, $30.6 million contract to test its Airborne Launch Assist Space Access vehicle, states the company's March 28 release. The contract also has options for Boeing to build as many as 12 ALASA vehicles. Boeing's 24-foot-long rocket is designed to propel a 100-pound payload into low Earth orbit from the belly of an F-15E flying at 40,000 feet in altitude, states the release. "With our design, the first and second stages are powered by the same engines, reducing weight and complexity," said Steve Johnston, the company's director for advanced space exploration. The DARPA-led ALASA project aims to reduce microsatellite launch costs by as much as 66 percent.