Encyclopedia Astronautica
aircraft-launched


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See also
  • Pegasus Privately-funded, air-launched winged light satellite launcher. More...

Associated Launch Vehicles
  • 212 Russian air-to-surface missile. Korolev's second design for a rocket-propelled cruise missile. It was flight tested twice after his arrest in 1939 but work was then abandoned. More...
  • X4 German wire-guided air-to-air missile. 8 kg of pressure-fed Salbei + Tonka 250 propellants provided a thrust that varied from 140 kgf down to 30 kgf over the 17 second burn time. Final velocity was 230 m/s. More...
  • Rascal American air-to-surface missile, development started in 1946. Program cancelled in 1958. Project originated as Bell Aircraft Corp / AAF / Project MX-776. Requirement for a 160 km range air-launched guided missile was overcome by other technology during its protracted development. More...
  • Rockoon American air-launched sounding rocket. The Rockoon (balloon-launched rocket) consisted of a small high-performance sounding rocket launched from a balloon above most of the atmosphere. The Rockoon low-cost technique was conceived during an Aerobee firing cruse of the Norton Sound in March 1949. Rockoons were first launched from icebreaker Eastwind off Greenland by an ONR group under James A. Van Allen. They were later used by ONR and University of Iowa research groups in 1953-55 and 1957, from ships in sea between Boston and Thule, Greenland. A variety of upper stage rocket stages were used. More...
  • Deacon Rockoon American sounding rocket. The Rockoon concept involved release of a 12 m diameter balloon from a ship, which took a Deacon sounding rocket to 9 to 27 km altitude in 80 minutes. The rocket was ignited at a preset time or altitude or by remote control, and then boosted an 18 kg payload to a 50 to 100 km altitude. The Deacon was painted black and wrapped in plastic to protect it against the cold, and fitted with larger fins for stability at high altitude. More...
  • RS Russian intermediate range cruise missile. Soviet Mach 3 manned air-launched ramjet aircraft, developed in 1954-1961, but cancelled before the first full-scale test article could be flown. More...
  • RSS-52 Russian air-launched test vehicle. Hypersonic ramjet-powered research vehicle proposed by Myasishchev in 1958. This version of the cancelled Buran intercontinental cruise missile would have been air-launched at supersonic speed from a derivative of the M-50 bomber. It would then use its own ramjet to accelerate to hypersonic velocity. More...
  • Rockair American sounding rocket. The Rockair technique (research rocket launched from aircraft) was developed by the Office of Naval Research and the University of Maryland. A 2.75-inch FFAR rocket was fired from a Navy F2H-2 Banshee aircraft to an altitude of approximately 60,000 m. More...
  • Rockaire American air-launched sounding rocket. This USAF version of the Navy Rockair (research rocket launched from aircraft) vehicle consisted of a Deacon rocket launched from an F-86D Sabrejet fighter. More...
  • Farside American sounding rocket. Project Farside was an attempt to reach extreme altitudes with the rockoon concept. Using a four-stage solid-propellant rocket hung below a 106 188-m3 (3 750 000-ft3) balloon, altitudes approaching 6437 km (4000 mi) were reached during the fall of 1957. Farside was a four stage vehicle consisting of 4 x Recruit + 1 x Recruit + 4 x Arrow II + 1 x Arrow II. More...
  • Bold Orion American air-launched anti-ballistic missile. Dropped from B-47 medium bombers, the missile consisted of a Sergeant booster and Altair upper stage. More...
  • Bold Orion 1 American anti-ballistic missile. Two stage vehicle consisting of 1 x B-47 Stratojet + 1 x Sergeant More...
  • Project Pilot American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. The US Navy's satellite launcher project competed with the Army's Jupiter-C, the Air Force Atlas, and the civilian Vanguard. Air-launched satellite launch vehicle, and anti-satellite versions, tested by the US Navy shortly after Sputnik. One may have achieved orbit. More...
  • High Virgo American air-launched test vehicle. Two stage vehicle consisting of 1 x B-58 Hustler + 1 x TX-20 Sergeant More...
  • Bold Orion 2 American anti-ballistic missile. Three stage vehicle consisting of 1 x B-47 Stratojet + 1 x Sergeant + 1 x Altair More...
  • Crossbow American air-to-surface missile, development started in 1953. Program cancelled in 1957. More...
  • Project Pilot 1 American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Ground-launched, 5 stage vehicle for Project Pilot. More...
  • Project Pilot 2 American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Six stage vehicle consisting of 1 x F4D-1 Skyray + 2 x HOTROC + 2 x HOTROC + 1 x X-241 + 1 x NOTS 8in + 1 x NOTS 3in Sph. More...
  • ALSOR American test vehicle. Two stage vehicle consisting of 1 x F-104A Starfighter + 1 x Viper I More...
  • Hound Dog First American air-launched cruise missile to become operational. Based on Navaho technology. More...
  • X-15A American air-launched rocketplane. Manned hypersonic research rocket aircraft. More...
  • Sparoair I American sounding rocket. Three stage vehicle consisting of 1 x F3H Cougar + 1 x Sparrow + 1 x Sparrow More...
  • Jaguar B-57 American air-launched test vehicle. Three stage vehicle air launched from a B-57A Canberra. The rocket consisted of consisting of 3 x Recruit + 1 x Recruit + 1 x Baby Sergeant More...
  • Sparoair American air-launched sounding rocket. Air-launched two stage vehicle consisting of tandem Sparrow air-to-air missile motors. More...
  • Caleb American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Heavily classifed project related to air-launched ASAT development. Launch tests in 1958. NOTS project staff believed they successully orbited a satellite but unconfirmed. More...
  • Sparoair II American sounding rocket. Three stage vehicle consisting of 1 x F3H Cougar + 1 x Sparrow + 1 x Sparrow More...
  • Spiral 50-50 Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. The Soviet Air Force had an enduring interest in a horizontal takeoff/horizontal landing, manned, reusable space launch system that could ferry crews and priority supplies between earth and space on the same basis as conventional aircraft. Between 1960 and 1976 Mikoyan developed this manned partially reusable space launch system. It consisted of a reusable hypersonic air-breathing booster; two expendable rocket stages; and the reusable Spiral manned spaceplane. The effort was never properly funded by the government, and by the mid-1970's had only reached the stage of flight tests of subscale versions of Spiral. Development was discontinued in 1976 in favor of the Buran, a copy of the US space shuttle. However it was resurrected in improved form in the 1980's as the MAKS spaceplane. More...
  • Skybolt American strategic air-to-surface ballistic missile, development started in 1959. Program cancelled amid huge controversy in 1963 after Britain had agreed to buy the weapon in place of its own Blue Streak. More...
  • RBSS American winged orbital launch vehicle. The Recoverable Booster Space System was a plan circulated in the early 1960's to use the XB-70 as a recoverable supersonic first stage for a range of systems. The XB-70 would be capable of orbiting a 6800 kg payload, or an X-20 manned space glider. More...
  • X-15/Blue Scout American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. In March 1962, NASA proposed an orbital launch vehicle using the B-52/X-15 combination. A Blue Scout booster would be fitted to an extendable launch rail on the belly of the X-15. The X-15 would be air-launched from the B-52, and then itself air-launch the Blue Scout well above the earth's atmosphere. More...
  • Sparoair III American sounding rocket. Three stage vehicle consisting of 1 x F4B Phantom + 1 x Sparrow + 1 x 22.6KS1245 More...
  • ALARR American air-launched test vehicle. Two stage vehicle consisting of 1 x F4D Phantom + 1 x Genie-Alarr More...
  • X-15A-2 American air-launched rocketplane. Manned hypersonic research rocket aircraft. Stretched rebuild of crashed X-15A, with drop tanks. Reached Mach 6.7 and 108 km altitude. More...
  • AGM-86A American air-to-surface missile. Subsonic Cruise Armed Decoy, full scale development begun in 1968, project cancelled 1973. Nuclear warhead. More...
  • ALCM Air-Launched Cruise Missile, the major long-range standoff attack missile of the for USAF B-52 bombers. At the end of the Cold War the nuclear warheads were replaced with high explosives. More...
  • Isinglass American winged rocketplane. CIA air-launched, rocket-powered high speed manned vehicle project of 1965-1968 that developed basic technologies used in later shuttle and reusable launch vehicle programmes. More...
  • D-21 American air-launched drone. Project 'Tagboard', Project 'Senior Bowl'. Mach 3.5 ramjet recoverable reconnaisance drone air-launched from back of A-12 or with booster rocket from B-52. More...
  • SRAM American Short Range Attack Missile, an air-launched nuclear-armed solid-propellant stand-off weapon to allow B-52 and FB-111 bombers to penetrate Soviet air space. In service 1972-1990. Retired after the collapse of the Soviet Union. More...
  • SRAM-2 American Short Range Attack Missile, an air-launched nuclear-armed solid-propellant stand-off weapon to replace the SRAM. Mission was to allow B-52 and B-1 bombers to penetrate Soviet air space. Cancelled in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union without going into service. More...
  • System 49 Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. The Spiral project was not cancelled with the decision to proceed with the large Buran spaceplane. Instead flight test of the orbiter continued but the launcher design was rethought. The ambitious Mach 4 air-breathing first stage was abandoned. Instead the rocket stages and the manned Spiral orbiter were mounted on the back of an An-124 subsonic transport. This concept would evolve through the Bizan concept to the MAKS of the 1980's, which reached the hardware development stage. More...
  • Bizan-T Russian air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from catamaran heavy-life aircraft, predecessor of later Gerakl / Molniya-1000 design. 900 tonnes takeoff mass. Release conditions: Suspended load, Mach 0.7 at 8 to 9 km altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. More...
  • System 49-M Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. The 49M was an application of the system 49 design concept, but with a larger carrier aircraft. The system would have a 770 tonne gross takeoff mass. The orbiter/rocket stage combination weighted 370 tonnes, with the orbiter mass being 28 tonnes in orbit, including a 9 tonne payload in a 8.0 m x 3.3 m diameter payload bay. The tripropellant single rocket stage was equipped 1 x NK-43 / 11D112 engine burning Lox/Kerosene and 2 x RD-57 / 11D57 engines burning Lox/LH2. The orbiter could have one or two crew, and was designed for 100 reuses. Development costs for the new heavy lift aircraft and larger orbiter would be too high, and the design was abandoned in favour of the Bizan concept. More...
  • AGM-86B American air-to-surface missile. The SCAD project was revived and the redesigned missile was designated the 'Air-Launched Cruise Missile'. Nuclear warhead. More...
  • Bizan Russian air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Bizan was the 1982 Soviet air-launched spaceplane design iteration between the '49' and 'MAKS' concepts. Like the '49', it was air-launched from atop an An-124 transport. Unlike the '49', it was a single-stage-to-orbit tripropellant concept. More...
  • AGM-86C American air-to-surface missile. Conventional warhead version of ALCM. More...
  • ASAT American anti-satellite missile. The ASAT air-launched anti-satellite missile was developed by Vought in response to a 1977 Air Force requirement for a missile that could be launched from an F-15A fighter yet was capable of intercepting and destroying enemy satellites in low earth orbit. Four of five tests were successful before the program was cancelled in 1988. More...
  • MAKS Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. The MAKS spaceplane was the ultimate development of the air-launched spaceplane studies conducted by NPO Molniya. The draft project for MAKS was completed in 1988 and consisted of 220 volumes, generated by NPO Molniya and 70 sub-contractors and government institutes. Development of MAKS was authorised but cancelled in 1991. At the time of the cancellation, mock-ups of both the MAKS orbiter and the external tank had been finished. A 9,000 kgf experimental engine with 19 injectors was tested. There were 50 test burns proving the separate modes and a smooth switch between them. Since it was expected that MAKS could reduce the cost of transport to earth orbit by a factor of ten, it was hoped in the 1990's that development funding could be found. However this did not materialise. MAKS was to have flown by 1998. More...
  • Senior Prom American intermediate range stealth cruise missile. US Air Force program with test flights in 1978-1981. More...
  • MAKS-M Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Fully reusable unpiloted verion of MAKS, similar to Interim HOTOL. Air launched from An-225. MAKS was found to have superior payload, lower non-recurring cost and technical risk. MAKS-M would require new materials. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 275,000 kg, 38.0 m length x 24.0 m wingspan, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. Payload bay 7.0 m long x 4.6 m diameter. More...
  • MAKS-T Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. All cargo version of MAKS. Air-launched heavy-lift launcher would use an expendable second stage with a payload container. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 275,000 kg, 38.0 m length x 24.0 m wingspan, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. Payload bay 13.0 m long x 5.0 m diameter. More...
  • VKS-D Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from An-225. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 275,000 kg, 38.0 m length x 24.0 m wingspan, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. More...
  • VKS-G Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from Kholod Mach 5 mother ship. This was a Mikoyan supersonic cargo aircraft, designed from Spiral 50-50 design. Combined-cycle turbo-ramjet engine. Release conditions: Piggy-back, 200,000 kg, Mach 5 at 25 to 30 km altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 1130 m/s. It was concluded that the extensive development would be required for the combination-cycle engines, resulting in an extended development schedule and high technical risk. The more conservative subsonic-launched MAKS was chosen instead. More...
  • Pegasus American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Privately-funded, air-launched winged light satellite launcher. More...
  • Pegasus/HAPS American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Five stage version consisting of 1 x NB-52 + 1 x Orion 50S + 1 x Orion 50 + 1 x Orion 38 + 1 x HAPS More...
  • AltAir American air-launched target missile. Single-stage launch vehicle air dropped from a C-130 consisting of a surplus Minuteman SR19 stage and a payload section. More...
  • Interim HOTOL Initiated by a British Aerospace team led by Dr Bob Parkinson in 1991, this was a less ambitious, scaled-back version of the original HOTOL. The single-stage to orbit winged launch vehicle using four Russian rocket engines. It was to have been air-launched from a Ukrainian An-225 Mriya (Dream) aircraft. Interim HOTOL would separate from the carrier aircraft at subsonic speeds, and would then pull up for the ascent to orbit. It would return via a gliding re-entry and landing on gear on a conventional runway. Interim HOTOL suffered from the same aerodynamic design challenges as HOTOL and went through many, many design iterations in the quest for a practical design. More...
  • VKS-DM Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. Air launched from Gerakl / NPO Molniya-1000 heavy-lift aircraft, catamaran layout, twin-fuselage triplane. Release conditions: Suspended load, 450,000 kg, 900 kph at 9,500 m altitude. Effective velocity gain compared to vertical launch 270 m/s. More...
  • Burlak Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Burlak air-launched satellite launcher was proposed in 1992 and studied by Germany in 1992-1994. Evidently based on secret anti-satellite missile. Air launched from Tu-160 bomber, released at 13,500 m altitude and Mach 1.7. Development estimated to cost only DM 50 million, but not proceeded with. Burlak/Diana variant would have been launched from Concorde. More...
  • Black Horse American air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Winged, single stage to orbit launch vehicle using aerial refueling and lower performance, non-cryogenic propellants. Takes off from runway at 22,000 kg gross weight; rendezvous with tanker to load 66,760 kg oxidizer; then flies to orbit. More...
  • Black Colt American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Winged, first stage of a launch vehicle using aerial refueling and existing engines. Takes off from runway; rendezvous with tanker to load oxidizer; then flies to Mach 12/150 nm to release Star 48V second stage and 450 kg payload. In comparison to Black Horse, uses existing engines and a much more achievable mass fraction by only flying to half orbital speed. More...
  • Herakles Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Launch vehicle design by NPO Molniya / TsAGI that would utilize air launch from a giant cargo aircraft capable of lifting 900 tonne payloads. The single stage to orbit spaceplane would be released at subsonic velocity. More...
  • LII Spaceplane Russian air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. LII (the Gromov Experimental Flight Institute at Zhukoskiy) designed several alternate spaceplane concepts for air-launch from the An-225 transport. These were similar to the various MAKS concepts. More...
  • MAKS-D Russian winged orbital launch vehicle. NPO Molniya, Antonov, and TsAGI proposed a spaceplane demonstrator project to the European Space Agency in 1993-1994 under the RADEM project. This would be a scaled-back version of the cancelled MAKS spaceplane using existing rocket engines. An unmanned prototype of the MAKS would be fitted out with RD-120 Lox/Kerosene engines. Launched from atop the An-225, the MAKS-D would reach an altitude of 80 to 90 km and a speed of Mach 14 to 15. More...
  • Pegasus XL American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Uprated version of Pegasus air-launched winged light satellite launcher. 4 stage vehicle consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Pegasus XL stage 1 + 1 x Orion 50XL + 1 x Orion 38. More...
  • Pegasus H American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Four stage vehicle consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Orion 50S + 1 x Orion 50 + 1 x Orion 38 More...
  • X-34A American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. The original X-34A was a three-stage vehicle consisting of the Orbital Sciences L-1011; which air-launched the X-34A reusable rocketplane; which space-launched the rocket-powered third stage; which would take a small payload to orbit. Only the third stage would be expendable. More...
  • SR19 American air-launched target missile. Single stage vehicle consisting of 1 surplus Minuteman 2 SR19AJ1 motor air-dropped from a C-130 transport. Similar to the SVC AltAir concept. More...
  • Pegasus XL/HAPS American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Five stage version consisting of 1 x L-1011 + 1 x Pegasus XL stage 1 + 1 x Orion 50XL + 1 x Orion 38 + 1 x HAPS More...
  • MiG-31NS Russian air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Orbital launch vehicle air-launched from a MiG-31 fighter. More...
  • Rif-MA Russian orbital launch vehicle. Orbital launch vehicle derived from R-39 SLBM. Air-launched from An-124. Ignition mass 79 tonnes. More...
  • Shtil-3A Russian intercontinental ballistic orbital launch vehicle. Proposed four-stage air-launched orbital launch vehicle based on R-29RM SLBM. Ignition mass 46 tonnes. More...
  • Vehra French air-launched rocketplane. Dassault design for an air-launched experimental reusable launch vehicle. It would be launched from Novespace's Airbus 300 zero-G aircraft. The lifting-body design was loosely based on Dassault's work on the NASA-led X-38 Crew Rescue Vehicle program. VEHRA weighed 6.5 t tonnes and carried 19.5 tonnes of kerosene and oxygen propellant. One Russian 400.5 kN-thrust NK-39 engine would power the vehicle, which would be capable of reaching Mach 14. The 11.5 meter long vehicle also contained a small 1.5 x 1.5 x 5 meter payload bay for an expendable upper stage+250 kg satellite. Like THEMIS, VEHRA would explore hypersonic flight and the operational and cost aspects of reusability. More...
  • Hyper X American test vehicle. Two stage vehicle consisting of 1 x NB-52 + 1 x Orion 50S More...
  • X-34 American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. NASA failed to attract industry co-investment to develop the original X-34A air-launched, reusable, low-technology, low-cost orbital launch vehicle concept. So the project was scaled back and NASA contracted with Orbital Sciences on 28 August 1996 to build and fly the X-34 unmanned technology demonstrator. This program in turn developed overruns and was cancelled in 2001 before a test flight was made. More...
  • Astroliner American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. The Kelly Space & Technology Astroliner Space Launch System was a two-stage-to-orbit, towed space launch concept. Towing an aerodynamic vehicle to an altitude of 6,000 m yielded higher system performance due to vacuum engine performance, reduced drag and gravity losses, and aerodynamic lift during flight. More...
  • Tier One American winged rocketplane. Burt Rutan's Tier One was the second manned reusable suborbital launch system (after the B-52/X-15). But it was developed privately at a small fraction of the cost. More...
  • Pathfinder American air-launched winged orbital launch vehicle. Pioneer Rocketplane planned in the late 1990's to produce the Pathfinder aerial-refueled spaceplane. The two-seat fighter-bomber-sized aircraft was to be powered by two turbofan engines and one kerosene/oxygen-burning RD-120 rocket engine. After takeoff from a conventional airfield, it would rendezvous with a tanker, top off its liquid oxygen tanks, and then rocket to Mach 15 and 110 km altitude. There it would release an upper rocket stage that would boost a 2100 kg payload to orbit. Pathfinder itself would return to the airfield for refueling and reuse. More...
  • SLC-1 American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Nanosat air-launched orbital vehicle which would be dropped from a boosted F-4 carrier aircraft. More...
  • LRALT American air-launched target rocket. Air-launched anti-ballistic missile target composed of two surplus SR19 states in tandem. More...
  • Rascal SLV American air-launched orbital launch vehicle. Expendable rocket air-launched from a supersonic aircraft with engines modified using a technology called Mass Injected Pre-Compressor Cooling (MIPCC), where a coolant such as water or liquid oxygen was added to the air at the engine inlet, allowing the engine to operate at higher altitudes than normally possible. More...
  • ASMP French cruise missile. Tactical nuclear. ASMP-A is improved version expected to enter service in 2008. More...

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