Tech

January 18, 2013

‘Gliding’ to space: A novel means of launching space satellites

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’s Dryden Flight Research Center is developing a novel rocket-launching technique called the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept that could significantly reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of sending satellites into orbit.

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 glider will return independently of the tow aircraft to its base to be used again.

Gerald Budd, a NASA Dryden business development and towed glider project manager, displayed a 24-foot wingspan, twin fuselage proof-of-concept model of the glider that was constructed in NASA Dryden’s model shop during a presentation at the Academy of Model Aeronauticsí 15th Annual Expo in Ontario, Calif., in mid-January. The model will fly later this year, towed aloft by one of Drydenís small DROID ñ for Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone ñ unmanned aircraft.

Recent feasibility analyses done by independent contractors indicate that a performance gain of up to 40 percent may be realized by use of Budd’s towed-glider technique over vertical launch of a similar-sized rocket from the ground.

Early artist rendering shows the concept of operations of the Towed Glider Air-Launch Concept, beginning with the aero-tow of the glider carrying a rocket booster, launching the rocket, then returning to land independently of the tow aircraft.

Additionally, 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, Budd explained. Cost savings may be as much as 25 percent, based on recent Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency studies.

Historically, air-launched rockets have been carried and dropped from underneath modified, existing aircraft, such as Orbital Sciences’ Pegasus rockets that are launched from the firm’s modified L-1011 “Stargazer” launch aircraft. Currently, a huge new custom-built carrier aircraft is under construction by Stratolaunch Systems, Inc.

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

ìItís a real-estate problem,î said Budd. ìYouíre 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,î Budd said.

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




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines September 15, 2014

News: Navy identifies pilot presumed dead in crash - A Navy fighter pilot presumed dead after two fighter jets crashed in the far western Pacific Ocean has been identified.   Business: Boeing eyes 737-700 solution for new JSTARS - Boeing is officially planning a variant of its 737-700 commercial jetliner as a competitor for the Air Force’s...
 
 

News Briefs September 15, 2014

Australia contributing planes for anti-IS campaign Australia is preparing to contribute 600 troops and up to 10 military aircraft to the increasingly aggressive campaign against the Islamic State extremists in Syria and Iraq, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said Sept. 14. Abbott said Australia was responding to a formal request from the United States for specific...
 
 
Courtesy graphic

Lockheed Martin conducts flight tests of aircraft laser turret for DARPA

AFRL photograph The Aero-adaptive Aero-optic Beam Control turret that Lockheed Martin is developing for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force Research Laboratory has completed initial flight testing. T...
 

 

Lockheed Martin advances live, virtual, constructive training in flight test

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=jvXmOW8L3mU Lockheed Martin successfully tested a new solution for integrated live, virtual and constructive training during a flight demonstration at the company’s Aeronautics facility in Fort Worth, Texas. During the flight test, a pilot flying in a live F-16 engaged in a synthetic training exercise with a pilot flying as wing...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover arrives at Martian mountain

NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover has reached the Red Planet’s Mount Sharp, a Mount-Rainier-size mountain at the center of the vast Gale Crater and the rover mission’s long-term prime destination. “Curiosity n...
 
 

Raytheon begins full rate production on TALON Laser Guided Rockets

Under a $117 million contract awarded to Raytheon, Raytheon Missile Systems has begun production of the TALON Laser Guided Rocket. In 2013, the Armed Forces General Headquarters of the United Arab Emirates awarded Tawazun a contract to procure the TALON Laser Guided Rocket. “Full rate production of the TALON LGR is a significant milestone for...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>