Launching satellites from launchpads is cool and everything, but if DARPA has its way the military could soon be launching small satellites from airliners, granting the Pentagon the ability to put satellites aloft from virtually any airfield and at a fraction of the cost.
The $164 million Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program is aimed at getting satellites in the air quickly, cheaply, and from anywhere rather than from a limited number of launch sites. Airplane-based launch systems could get satellites into space on a 24-hour turnaround. That means that in a pinch the DoD could deploy numerous new satellites, though DARPA's solicitation stops short of detailing exactly what kind of pinch that might be.
Airborne launch platforms cruising at just 25,000 feet would place the initial launch at an altitude that's above much of the Earth's denser atmosphere. Such a system would also provide the launch vehicle--likely something very much like an aerially launched missile--with an initial velocity, so the rocket wouldn't be starting from a standstill. That should trim the cost-per-pound of payload--DARPA hopes to cut costs by two thirds, from up to $30,000 per pound now to less than $10,000 per pound in the future.
The initial launches won't be that cheap however. DARPA wants ALASA to demonstrate a dozen launches of 100-pound payloads into low Earth orbit at a cost of $1 million per launch as soon as 2015. If ALASA can do that, the Pentagon will be well on its way to making every Air Force base in its portfolio a potential satellite launchpad.
That could be key to future military engagements of course, hence DARPA's interest. Cyber attacks and anti-satellite weapons both pose a threat to the defense satellites the U.S. military depends on. In a scenario in which systems like GPS and military intelligence or communications satellites are compromised, the military could quickly replenish its satellite supply from any airfield on the planet.
Well it's about time. What took them so long. Guess it took Burt Rutan's spaceship one for people to realize their is a more efficient and effective way of getting vehicles into space besides launchpads and tall rockets.
At last, the obvious potential of using the abundant oxygen available for the first few miles above the earth rather than storing it all onboard the rocket will be realized (assuming the project moves forward). Hope it succeeds!
So whats wrong with the Pegasus launch system?
443 kg Payload launched from 40k ft for $11 M per launch and been going for 7 years
I'm with you guys in saying "Its about time".
So after rediscovering the Apollo program now it's the turn of the X-15. What have they been thinking all these years?
i wonder if they could put this on any commercial flight ? I bet it would save even more money ! If i understand the idea correctly theyre like missles
"$164 million Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program" or "only $14 million more than one POS F-22 raptor that can not even fly with out suffocating its pilot".
This is a pretty good idea. Considering China has shown the ability to shoot down a satellite, with a just a handful of missiles they could essentially cripple the entire US military, becuase we are so insainly dependent on our satatlites for so many different things, not the least of is GPS.
But if we could replace a satellite in a moments notice, then bam, the only problem would be dealing with a short black out period and the space debris, but if all out war happened, space debris would be the least of the USA military concerns. the chance of damaging other satellites would be remote, and we wold just keep popping new ones up there until after the war and then we would concentrate on cleaning up all the peices. hopefully collecting them all and dropping them on china (only in the hypothetical scernireo that they started the war. otherwise. i have to hate for china... well... that isnt true. they are closest Nazis, but are not all bad.)
The solid fuel system is a flaw
@phoenix - These are only 45 kg payloads. Most DoD payloads are at least 10,000 kg. SpaceShipeOne/Two are suborbital spacecraft.
@alain - X-15 was suborbital.
@quseio2 - FAA would never allow that.
Rutan's system while making it most of the way into space would have needed 10x more energy to make it to orbit. So it's deceptive. Lets see how far they get when their goal is not so arbitrary.
Sometimes we forget just how thoroughly NASA kicked ass.
the last three posts were the only ones that made any sense, the biggest problem is this: if enough satelites are knocked out of commision to cripple our military that would leave so much debri in orbit all the other satelites and any new ones would probably be toast; the answer is satelite defenses that stop the threat before it gets out of the atmosphere, now that would be impressive, cheers
Finally, an article with some viable conversation. Posting has been terrible this past week...
Anyways, Craigboy brought up an important point in relation to the GPS satellite turnaround people seem to be citing as an important role this technology could play. Most of our GPS satellites weigh a ton (literally speaking, 2000+ lbs). Unless this tech demo (is what I would call it at this point) can be drastically scaled up, I dont see it providing any replacement utility for any of the major space-based systems the US military broadly employs.
And on a side note, with the exception of some over the horizon systems that utilize GPS systems for tracking (granted, this is a big part of the US long rang strike capability), all the ground based units should be proficient in land navigation without electronic aids (I've taken some brief training on it myself and it isn't terribly hard..)
@Craigboy - I was talking about how the X-15 was launched which is what the subject is about here.
it would be alot more cost effective, if Darpa use lasers to bend space in front of a craft and glide through such as planets, moons, and such. We know weight bends space, and using short wave heavy laser, like, how sound travel through a room, space can be compressed.
Ex. using tractor beam on one side of the craft to attract particles and atoms and depositing those particles and atoms to the side where you want to glide. This will create a slop in space; on one side of the craft space should rise and where the craft needs to glide the space will be heavy and will create a down word slop. You could increase the speed as you increase the power on tractor beam.
of course this is once you leave the earths orbit.
ex.not antigravity but anti magnitism is required to leave earth's orbit. check out telsa's work. WE DON'T NEED ROCKETS AND OIL AND CRAP
I mentioned the SpaceShipOne concept in just those terms, concept. Of course they wouldn't try to use a white night to launch a DoD payload.
Engineers have been screaming for decades about the concept of air launching payloads (even people) into space. It still has yet to take flight in a practicle application (save Scaled Composites' 2005 inaugural spaceflight).
I honestly believe for unmanned payloads, and manned orbital spaceflight, air launching satellites and spaceplanes could be cheaper over time and much more efficient. Plus orbital insertion would be more common place than it is now for the time, energy, and money it takes to stack a rocket and launch it.
I don't know why it took us so long to even try this method. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record, WHERE'S THAT SPACE RAILGUN? Dx
I had this idea when I was about 10 years old. About time NASA caught up finally.
Instead of simply dropping the payload from a regular plane, an even better idea would be a purpose-built, remotely-piloted launch aircraft. Such a system would be more efficient, accurate, and safer as well. Satellite launching would be THE ideal mission for an RPV, this would be so much less challenging than what an MQ-9 Reaper has to do over Afghanistan. This launch system could basically consist of just wing, engines and avionics that would be clipped onto the booster and payload. The whole system including control station, could fit into one standard shipping container. The booster could also be set to glide back to the vicinity of the launch site via steerable parachute.
can't they just use magic. it will leave the money for taking care of the citizens of thew country.
Pegasus launch system has been doing this for 20 years. What's new about this?