An air launched, highly responsive military transatmospheric vehicle (TAV), based on existing aerospace systems
AIP Conf. Proc. -- March 1, 1996 -- Volume 361, pp. 555-564
Space technology and applications international forum: 1st conference on commercial development of space; 1st conference on next generation launch systems; 2nd spacecraft thermal control symposium; 13th symposium on space nuclear power and propulsion; DOI:10.1063/1.49958
Issue Date: 1 March 1996
Just curious about the purpose of such a system. It would launch this up into the atmosphere and it would come down and land somewhere in the world with a squad of special ops or something? Or is it a big ass missile following the same principle?
To all, this is about the time (1994) when a variant of Tu-160, Tu-160SK, was exhibited in Singapore, with a mock up of a small sat launcher (Burlak/Diana). Project involved Germany (sort of joint venture) but came to an end in 1998. So "Neptune" might just have been an analytic study of what could be expected from this kind of platform (performances, logistics, etc.) to understand how realistic Russian figures would be. B1B and Tu-160SK were close enough to compare apples and apples. I'm just very surprised that, as of today, and to the best of my knowledge, no such launch concept study was undertaken earlier than that with/for B1A. Given engineers always love to perform these kinds of studies, and puch the product envelop, it is highly improbable this type of study does not exist. Maybe someone will, one day, unearth one such thing and we can open a new thread. Plus: being not an ASAT, these types of satellite launcher concepts, are likely not to be forbidden by any disarmament treatises. Cheers.
B-1B has high ground clearance, a good lift capability plus high speed and altitude capability. Having inspected and observed them up close at SAC in Omaha NE I often thought they would make for a sexy stage'n half system. B-1B stance and ground clearance is similar to the Hustler which spawned numerous under slung drop stage concepts including Kingfisher. With B1- B’s being decommissioned I thought perhaps one striped of all its military realated hardware/software could be purchased from the scrap yard for reasonable price by a commercial launch company as a first stage in a stage and half concept.
I don't believe the B-1s are being decommissioned. They're still scheduled to remain in inventory for many years. The ones that have been taken out of service are slated to be used as spare parts supplies.
There have been a lot of studies of air launched rockets over the years, but they have rarely gotten very far (count the number of active ones). There are operational problems with them, and the basic fact that air launch does not dramatically improve performance. You get some performance boost, but not enough to overcome many of the drawbacks.
As for why there may not have been studies of using the B-1 in this role, I can see some good reasons. One is simply the fact that the B-1 had greater utility as a bomber than as a rocket launcher. That may have prevented people from considering them for such use. It's not unprecedented--one of the things that counted against AirLaunch was the requirement to use a C-17. The USAF did not like the idea of diverting an airlift asset to launch rockets. Call it the old conflict between the winged Air Force and the missile Air Force, but it was apparently a factor.
Uh, I thought Pegasus was doing quite well as an air-launched system.
Upgrading to 'man rated' might need a modified aircraft...
IIRC, the problem with launching from eg C-17 was that you had to drogue-chute the stack out the back. Hang-ups could be a problem. Of course, if you bolted two smaller aircraft together in a catamaran configuration, you could carry externally. Sort of thing Burt Rutan might do...
My point was that while there are quite a few ground-launched rockets in use, there's only one air-launched one: Pegasus. That tells you that air-launch is not very attractive. Otherwise, there would be more.