Fwd = Boeing studying air-launched launch vehicle family
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Original Date: Sat, 4 Mar 2000 00:39:03 +0100
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Boeing studying air-launched addition to launch vehicle family
3 March 2000
[INLINE] Boeing and Thiokol Propulsion are looking at ways of
making it easier to get military payloads into space, which could
be adapted to civil and commercial use.
The US Air Force has identified a need for a Space Manoeuvre
Vehicle (SMV), a small, unpiloted reusable spacecraft that can
lift approximately 7,500 lb. (3,000 kg.) to low Earth orbit (LEO).
SMV is designed to support a variety of military space missions
ranging from satellite deployment to terrestrial and on-orbit
The Boeing Thiokol solution is the AirLaunch system, which
consists of two basic configurations. The first would support the
military and would be capable of placing an SMV into LEO. The
second configuration would be available for civil, commercial and
military applications using a Conventional Payload Module.
A modified Boeing 747-400F would carry the AirLaunch vehicle to a
predetermined launch altitude. During the launch sequence the
vehicle's wing and tail assembly would provide the necessary lift
and lateral stability until 747/launch vehicle separation was
achieved. After ignition, the launch vehicle wing and tail
assembly would be jettisoned.
Thiokol Propulsion would provide the AirLaunch solid rocket motors
in a multi-stage configuration. Currently, Thiokol has existing
solid rocket motors suitable for the first two stages and is
working on a design that is well matched for the AirLaunch third
While the AirLaunch system is being developed primarily as a
near-term, low-cost, launch-on-demand system for the military,
"its additional capabilities would advance the Boeing's overall
launch vehicle strategy," said Rick Stephens, vice president and
general manager of Boeing Reusable Space Systems. "AirLaunch could
be used to support the deployment and replenishment of LEO
communications satellites, hypersonic research, remote sensing and
"The AirLaunch system will revolutionise space transportation for
both national and commercial needs by combining new low-risk
technologies together with demonstrated legacy systems," said
Robert Crippen, Thiokol Propulsion president.
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