Reusable microsatellite launcher?

cluttonfred

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I remember the Pegasus and some other projects, hardware and paper, to develop inexpensive small satellite launchers for various military and civilian uses. I have also read about micro-, nano- and even picosatellite designs (under 100, 10 and 1 kg, respectively). As UAVs become more sophisticated, it seems likely that in the future there may well be very small, reusable launchers. These would, obviously, be unmanned spacecraft.

Does anyone know of any past, present or future projects for reusable launchers for very small payloads, especially at the lower end of the spectrum?
 

quellish

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Mole said:
I remember the Pegasus and some other projects, hardware and paper, to develop inexpensive small satellite launchers for various military and civilian uses. I have also read about micro-, nano- and even picosatellite designs (under 100, 10 and 1 kg, respectively). As UAVs become more sophisticated, it seems likely that in the future there may well be very small, reusable launchers. These would, obviously, be unmanned spacecraft.

Does anyone know of any past, present or future projects for reusable launchers for very small payloads, especially at the lower end of the spectrum?

For something that small, you could justify more launches, and thus get greater economies of scale for expendables. You would, at least on paper, replaces your 2 Titan IV launches a year with 10 Pegasus, or whatever. With automated on-orbit servicing (Darpa's Orbital Express program), you would have even more small launches a year.

So there have not been that many recent programs aimed at small, reusable launchers. SDIO may have had programs like that in the late 1980s, but if they did they are still very black.
 

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Mole said:
Does anyone know of any past, present or future projects for reusable launchers for very small payloads, especially at the lower end of the spectrum?

Jordin Kare at Lawrence Livermore supposedly designed an SSTO with, IIRC, 75 pounds payload. Vehicle called "Mockingbird." But I don't think much has come out on the design... some weight and performance data, but no drawings that I'm aware of.
 

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Pegasus was never really designed to be inexpensive. It is actually one of the more expensive vehicles on a per-pound basis. That is true for many small-end launch vehicles.

The Military Space Plane project was the closest that DoD came to designing a small "reusable" launch vehicle. However, it would require an expendable rocket to get it into orbit and the only part of it that was supposed to be reusable was the small winged orbiter.

DARPA has not really done much in the way of small reusables. They did fund some tech development on quick reaction launch. See the FALCON (Force Applications and Launch from CONUS) and the AirLaunch. They canceled further work, however.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_Application_and_Launch_from_Continental_United_States

Fully reusable is difficult. Expect test programs and not an operational vehicle for delivering payloads.
 

quellish

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blackstar said:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_Application_and_Launch_from_Continental_United_States

Take that article with a grain of salt, it is riddled with inaccurate information.
 

Michel Van

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the Idea is not so bad

but lets look Wat they launch mostly
that are Minisatellite with a mass of 100–500 kg (220–1100 lb, including fuel)

since 2005 there are Cubesat with a mass of 1 kg (2.2 lb)
but I have my doubts, about the scientific use of these tiny cubesat

the only rocket Wat had supposed to be a (semi) reusable microsatellite launcher
is Xspace Falcon 1, (first stage land by parachute in ocean)
but the 4 test launch there were 3 failure, one success, but NO salvage and reuse of first stage !

But wat is cheaper ?
A reusable launcher with all cost of salvage, transport, repair, launch
or a expendable cheap solid booster...
 

blackstar

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quellish said:
blackstar said:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Force_Application_and_Launch_from_Continental_United_States

Take that article with a grain of salt, it is riddled with inaccurate information.

I'm shocked to learn that Wikipedia contains mistakes...
 

cluttonfred

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I have seen schemes to launch orbiters from the backs of big cargo planes and small satellites from the belly or wings of fighters. There must have been schemes in the past to use a commuter or business jet as the first stage for something the size of a Pegasus, maybe a Lockheed Jetstar or something along those lines? Anyone know of any such projects for cheap, reusable (at least the plane) space access for small payloads?

If doing it today, the Embraer 145 AEW&C would be a likely candidate:
img_145aewc_state_of_art.jpg
 

quellish

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Michel Van said:
the Idea is not so bad

but lets look Wat they launch mostly
that are Minisatellite with a mass of 100–500 kg (220–1100 lb, including fuel)

since 2005 there are Cubesat with a mass of 1 kg (2.2 lb)
but I have my doubts, about the scientific use of these tiny cubesat

the only rocket Wat had supposed to be a (semi) reusable microsatellite launcher
is Xspace Falcon 1, (first stage land by parachute in ocean)
but the 4 test launch there were 3 failure, one success, but NO salvage and reuse of first stage !

But wat is cheaper ?
A reusable launcher with all cost of salvage, transport, repair, launch
or a expendable cheap solid booster...

Not long after the first flight I talked with someone high up in the company about the 1st stage recovery. First, they treat it as sort of a bonus - if they can recover and reuse the 1st stage, great, but they are not dependant on it. Second, for that flight they lost the first stage and were not able to find it.
 

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