Skip to comments.Fire in the sky: the Air Launched Sortie Vehicle of the early 1980s (part 3)
Posted on 03/23/2010 8:59:09 PM PDT by ErnstStavroBlofeld
A few years ago a company by the name of AirLaunch had a novel idea for a rocketput it in a C-17 cargo plane and then slide it out the back at high altitude. The rocket would rotate until it was vertical and then fire, heading into orbit. You can watch video of the drop tests.
We examined a wide variety of propellants ranging from storable hypergolics, RP/LOX, to fluorine/deuterium. That may sound exotic, but Ehrlich joked that this was a paper study!
Now imagine that instead of a relatively small rocket, there was a much larger rocket, with a pilot sitting in the nose, watching as he was pulled out of the back of a massive C-5 Galaxy cargo aircraft. And imagine that pilot falling backward, hundreds of feet, before a powerful Space Shuttle Main Engine ignited to push him into orbit. In the late 1980s Rockwell International, which built the Space Shuttle, proposed just such a system to the Air Force. According to Carl Ehrlich, an engineer for the company at the time, they had been inspired by footage of a 1974 test which involved dropping a Minuteman ICBM out the back of a C-5 and launching it. That test had proven successful, although the Air Force did not adopt the mobile ICBM concept. Ehrlich and other Rockwell engineers believed that there were certain advantages to air-launching a rocket, including rapid response and the ability to launch from virtually any location to any orbit.
(Excerpt) Read more at thespacereview.com ...
Minuteman 1 ICBM Air Launch
But what advantage would a manned missile have over a ground launch? You gain maybe 20,000 ft altitude, about 5 seconds of burn, and your airspeed is esentially zero.
Maybe the only advantage I see is the ability to reach the ISS without having to wait for a specific launch window by placing the aircraft at the appropriate location on the globe?
You have rapid response and the ability to launch from virtually any location to any orbit and target.
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