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Waspie_Dwarf

Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept

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Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept

718624main2gliderrocket.jpg

Early artist rendering of the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept, showing the towed glider following rocket launch. A notional tow aircraft is seen clearing the launch area. (NASA image) › View Larger Image

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center is developing a novel space access, rocket launching technique called the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept.

The idea is to build a relatively inexpensive, remotely or optionally-piloted glider that will be towed to altitudes approaching 40,000 feet by a large transport aircraft. The glider will carry a booster rocket capable of launching payloads into low Earth orbit.

Engineers continue working trade-offs with launching the rocket either with the glider still in tow, or following release from the tow aircraft. Either way, after the rocket has launched, the empty glider will return independently of the tow aircraft to the runway to be used again.

Gerald Budd, a NASA Dryden business development and towed glider project manager, is presenting the project at the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ 15th Annual Expo, Jan. 11-13, 2013, at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, Calif. There, Budd will display a 24-foot wingspan, twin fuselage proof-of-concept model being constructed by NASA Dryden that will fly later this year, towed aloft by one of Dryden’s small DROID, or Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone, Unmanned Air Vehicles.

Recent feasibility analyses done by independent contractors indicate that a performance gain of up to 40 percent may be realized over ground launch of a similar rocket.

Air launch of rockets has the potential to lower the cost of placing payloads to orbit through operational efficiencies that are simply not available through vertical ground launch.

Cost savings may be as much as 25 percent based on recent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency studies. These savings are due to both operational efficiencies and performance gains, as compared to ground launch.

Historically, air launched rockets have been carried and dropped from underneath modified, existing aircraft. Currently, a new custom-built carrier aircraft is under construction by Stratolaunch Systems Inc.

The Towed Glider Air Launch Concept has the potential to realize the operational flexibility of a custom airplane, but without the price tag.

“It’s a real estate problem,” said Budd. “You’re limited in what you can fit underneath an existing aircraft. Launching off the top of a carrier aircraft is problematic from a safety perspective. Our approach allows for significant payloads to be carried aloft and launched from a purpose-built custom aircraft that is less expensive because of the simplicity of the airframe, having no propulsion system (engines, fuel, etc.), on board,” Budd said.

This initial research and development effort is funded internally by NASA Dryden, located on Edwards Air Force Base in California, and by NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. Potential Department of Defense and industry partnerships are being explored.

Gray Creech

NASA Dryden Public Affairs

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Edited by Waspie_Dwarf
typos.

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Is this about reducing the cost per kilo of cargo placed in orbit? And would the overall payloads of a regular vertical launch be divided into multiple launches with this system? IOW would it require more than one of these launches to get the payload of a single vertical launch in orbit? Sorry if I seem a bit slow.

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Is this about reducing the cost per kilo of cargo placed in orbit? And would the overall payloads of a regular vertical launch be divided into multiple launches with this system? IOW would it require more than one of these launches to get the payload of a single vertical launch in orbit? Sorry if I seem a bit slow.

It would be a cheaper way of delivering small satellites to LEO.

Small satellites are often launched as secondary payloads alongside larger payloads. Whilst this is cheap it can lead to inconveniences for the satellite owner. The large payload will always take precedence (after all it is paying for the majority of the launch). Any delays to the large payload will impact on the smaller secondary payload. For this reason many small satellite operators would rather have a dedicated launch, where the launch can be at a time and date of their choosing.

Already there is the Pegasus launch system. This is air launched from beneath a modified Lockheed L-1011. By launching at altitude you increase the payload that the rocket can carry into space, and therefore reduce launch costs.

By attaching the rocket to the glider you greatly reduce the amount of modifications necessary to the carrier aircraft.

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Heres a great quote for the New steps into the Future Air&Space world we seek. Quite old the quote.

"Plato,Phaedrus" The natural function of the wing is to soar upwards and carry that which is heavy up to the place where dwells the race of gods.

More than and other thing that pretains to the body it partakes of the Nature of the devine.

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NASA Dryden Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept

NASA Dryden Flight Research Center is developing a novel space access, rocket launching technique called the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept. The idea is to build a relatively inexpensive, remotely or optionally piloted glider that will be towed to 40,000 feet by a large transport aircraft. The glider will carry a booster rocket capable of launching payloads into low Earth orbit.s

Credit: NASA

Source: NASA - Multimedia

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We can Build wonderful things ! :tu:

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