Air Launch Spaceplanes: any published supersonic separation analysis?


ACCESS: Top Secret
10 March 2010
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Many proposed air-launched spaceplanes have the carrier aircraft below the space vehicle. Eg Soviet Spiral, Bristol Spaceplanes spacecab & spacebus, ALSV, Bell BoMi, British EAG.4413/4396, interim HOTOL + An-225, <insert your favourite design concept here> ...

Some of these propose separation at supersonic (or even hypersonic?) speeds. I've often wondered how practical/achievable that would be. Does anyone know of any published analysis of separation issues for any particular spaceplane designs/proposals?

I've found some interesting discussions on air launch (eg but focus obviously tends to be subsonic.

Only Secret Projects discussion I've found is the following on subsonic ALSV separation. Apologies if I've missed something else.

Orionblamblam said:
Michel Van said:
how solve Boeing the Problem with Shuttle&Tank not hitting 747 Empennage after separation ?

The RL-10 rocket engines in the tail of the 747 would help get the 747 into a high-angle climb. At separation, two RL-10's on the Sortie woudl fire (the outboard ones, in order to miss the 747 tail with their exhaust), and the 747 would immediately dive. Think of it as a 747/Shuttle separate, but with thrust on the Shuttle. Since the separation occured at subsonic speed, there'd be little worry of unfortunate shock impingement.

P.S. I'm a newbie here, so hope this is an appropriate place to ask! Thanks.
Hey Tourist,

Welcome aboard and try this on for size. It's a paper on hypersonic weapons separation. Not exactly what you really need but it's a good start. Get a load of page 8.

Maybe this might also be of help:

Another good thing to go back and look into is the case of the D-21 drone. IIRC, it separated from it's M-21 mothership at Mach 3.

The Air Force Beta I & II studies are another good one

Hi Moonbat,

Thank you for the great pointers. I thought there had to be something relevant! Looks like I've got some serious studying to do now ;D

Thanks again,


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