Airborne Launch Assist Space Access: Emergency Backup Satellites Launched into Space from an F-15E

DARPA is trying to launch satellites using airplanes in order to reduce the cost and time needed to get them in the air. CNN’s Thom Patterson reports.

Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) is a United States Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) projected in planning and testing phases designed to produce a rocket capable of launching a 100-pound satellite into low Earth orbit for less than $1 million

Almost unbelievably, F-15E aircraft as a launch vehicle will require no modifications to launch the ALASA payload, not even software, because the rocket will use the same communications protocols as a typically mounted weapons system.

The rocket payload will be powered by a monopropellant, a combination of nitrous oxide and acetylene, and mixed together in one propellant tank slightly below room temperature; the propellant choice is a dramatic simplification of the complexity of the rocket vehicle. Rocket design is also unconventional, reversing the mounting of the four engines with the first stage at the front rather than rear.

Since the aircraft requires no modification, the F-15E will be able to continue to fly other regular missions, instead of sitting around when not being used as a specialized aircraft — a cost saving of resources.

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