Here’s a Better Use for Fighter Jets: Launching Satellites
Artist’s impression of the ALASA space launch system attached to a USAF fighter jet. Credit: DARPA
For decades, the human race has been deploying satellites into orbit. And in all that time, the method has remained the same – a satellite is placed aboard a booster rocket which is then launched from a limited number of fixed ground facilities with limited slots available. This process not only requires a month or more of preparation, it requires years of planning and costs upwards of millions of dollars.
On top of all that, fixed launch sites are limited in terms of the timing and direction of orbits they can establish, and launches can be delayed by things as simple as bad weather. As such, DARPA has been working towards a new method of satellite deployment, one which eliminates rockets altogether. It’s known as the Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA), a concept which could turn any airstrip into a spaceport and significantly reduce the cost of deploying satellites.
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