Posted by Graham Warwick at 12/15/2011 2:45 PM CSTWhile Paul Allen and Burt Rutan plan to air-launch Elon Musk's Falcon 9 booster from a six-engined, 385ft-span mothership, DARPA is looking at the other end of the scale with its new Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program. This aims to air-launch 100lb satellites into low Earth orbit from an essentially unmodified aircraft, such as a business jet.
The objective is to reduce the cost of launching small satellites at least three-fold, to less than $10,000/lb - or a total including range costs of less than $1 million to launch a 100lb payload. The belief is that, as a launch platform, an aircraft will provide higher performance, more frequent flights and greater flexibility in launch site and orbit.
Glenn A. Walsh, Project Director,
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