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Posted: 10/10/2005 9:00:03 AM EDT
Edwards, DARPA explore new C-17 capability

17 /7/2005 - EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. (AFPN)  -- Soaring 6,000 feet above the sun-baked California desert, a pair of Edwards aircraft -- a C-17 Globemaster III shadowed by a C-12 Huron observer aircraft -- carried out an unusual mission with an even more unusual cargo recently.

The rear of the aircraft yawned open, and at the prompt of "five, four, three, two, one, green light," the loadmasters released the restraints and a 65-foot rocket slid out the back of the aircraft beginning its descent to the desert floor.

The rocket drop was a test mission -- the first of a series dubbed the Falcon Small Launch Vehicle program. The program is a joint venture between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Air Force. It is designed to develop a new method of putting a 1,000-pound payload into low-Earth orbit.

This first test was the successful drop of an inert version of a QuickReach Booster rocket filled with water to increase its weight to 50,000 pounds -- about two-thirds the weight of an actual booster.

To compensate for the difference in weight and the center of gravity, the aircraft was put on autopilot at the moment of the release, said Maj. Landon Henderson, a 418th Flight Test Squadron test pilot.

"Fifty-thousand pounds going out the back is a pretty big change," he said.

Major Henderson said this flight was doubly exciting for him. Not only was the mission “fun,” but it was also his final flight here.

The test vehicle is also the longest article ever dropped from a C-17.

Another unique aspect of this mission was the method of getting the test vehicle out of the C-17. In most airdrops, the cargo is strapped to pallets, and the whole package is ejected from the aircraft.

"For this test, a system of rollers was developed to guide the inert rocket out of the aircraft," said Chris Webber, a 418th FLTS test project engineer. "This was quite an exciting event. It ended up going out very clean ... but there's always that anticipation of the unknown."

The Falcon SLV program is ultimately aimed toward affordable space lift. The current price of launching a rocket payload can be $20 million or more. Completion of the Falcon project should reduce that price tag to less than $5 million.

Dr. Steve Walker, DARPA's program manager for the Falcon SLV, said the developing capability will give U.S. forces a huge advantage because of its affordability and flexibility.

The affordability of the system is enhanced by its simplicity, DARPA officials said. Since traditional rockets launch from the ground, a complicated and expensive rocket nozzle must be used to compensate for altitude variation.

"Because the rocket is launched at altitude, it takes advantage of higher performing and extremely simple nozzles, which can be optimized for the higher altitude condition," Dr. Walker said. "Also, propane fuel can be self pressurized at that altitude, so no turbopumps or pressure feed systems are required to force propellant into the combustion chamber."

Another advantage to launching a satellite by air is the launch location and time is limitless. Currently, rocket launches are dictated by the location of launch facilities and many other factors including weather. By putting the system on a C-17, there is no limit to geographic location, and the aircraft can fly away from or above the weather.

"The Airlaunch rocket can be flown anywhere in the world in any unmodified C-17," Dr. Walker said. "This capability can be used by other services, especially the Army, to put tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance satellites into low-Earth orbit. These tactical satellites could be used and controlled by combatant commanders, supplying the frontline warfighter with in-orbit ISR capability."

This first test, dropping a mock-up rocket from 6,000 feet, was designed to test the safety of the release system, program officials said. Future drops will be at increasingly higher altitudes, ultimately testing the drop of a live rocket, which will launch at altitude after leaving the aircraft.

Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:04:20 AM EDT


Tampax for cargo planes, what will they think of next?  
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:06:24 AM EDT
Cool, cant wait to see one operational.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:07:11 AM EDT
Looks like we've got a plan if we ever have to shoot down the Russkie Space Station.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:07:19 AM EDT
Interesting new way to launch ICMBs. It's cool when shit haulers get to blow things up.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:09:19 AM EDT
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:09:21 AM EDT
sweet
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:36:12 AM EDT
MOAB X eleventeen
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:54:22 AM EDT

Originally Posted By HeavyMetal:
Actually, that is a broilerplate for a small satelite launcher.



When the Russians launched sputnik, people weren't scared because they feared a small satellite orbiting the earth.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 9:58:27 AM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/10/2005 9:59:32 AM EDT by limaxray]

Originally Posted By No_Serfing:
Interesting new way to launch ICMBs. It's cool when shit haulers get to blow things up.



Already been done.  Didn't work too well then because the ICBM didn't know exactly where it was, therefore it couldn't know exactly where to go.  Really degraded accuracy.  Now, with GPS and better inertial guidance systems, I think it might work better.


Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:02:07 AM EDT

Originally Posted By limaxray: Already been done.  Didn't work too well then because the ICBM didn't know exactly where it was, therefore it couldn't know exactly where to go.  Really degraded accuracy.  Now, with GPS and better inertial guidance systems, I think it might work better.
Those were dope-smoking ICBM's from the 70's. We all know drug use was rampant back in the draft military. Now we have all-volunteer ICBM's who have their bearings.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:02:15 AM EDT
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:20:48 AM EDT

Originally Posted By HeavyMetal:
Actually, that is a broilerplate for a small satelite launcher.



"boilerplate"
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:22:21 AM EDT
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:28:36 AM EDT
Oh.  

I thought maybe it was a big bottle of water for the NOLA relief effort . . .


CMOS
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:34:45 AM EDT
It's good to see the air force is looking into unique new ways to launch salellites.  And this method is completely different than the Pegaus launch platform.

www.spaceflightnow.com/pegasus/
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 10:46:24 AM EDT

Originally Posted By photokirk:


Tampax for cargo planes, what will they think of next?  



I don't think your wife or girlfriend would enjoy having her tampax removed by the use of a dragchute. On the other hand she just might.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 12:40:50 PM EDT
OMG!!! It's SKY MASTERS, from Dale Brown. 1991.




Got the whole series.

Link Posted: 10/10/2005 12:45:30 PM EDT
Another Dale Brown vision brought to life.  If you have read his fiction think NIRTSATs.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 12:48:54 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 10/10/2005 12:50:18 PM EDT by ArmedAggie]

Originally Posted By rtech:
OMG!!! It's SKY MASTERS, from Dale Brown. 1991.

i24.ebayimg.com/01/i/05/23/00/19_1.JPG?set_id=7


Got the whole series.




DAMMIT, I didn't scroll all the way down.  You beat me.

I have been amazed over the years at how many of his ideas have actually been tried.  We're now shifting some electronic warfare capabilities to B-52s and thinking about using B-1s.  Brown has steadily been ahead of UAV development.  Well, that or he has some serious inside connections who don't mind him giving away the farm in his books.  Now we're experimenting with controlling multiple UAVs from one source or controller, using computers to fill in the gaps between human inputs.
Link Posted: 10/10/2005 12:59:43 PM EDT

Originally Posted By ArmedAggie:

Originally Posted By rtech:
OMG!!! It's SKY MASTERS, from Dale Brown. 1991.

i24.ebayimg.com/01/i/05/23/00/19_1.JPG?set_id=7


Got the whole series.




DAMMIT, I didn't scroll all the way down.  You beat me.

I have been amazed over the years at how many of his ideas have actually been tried.  We're now shifting some electronic warfare capabilities to B-52s and thinking about using B-1s.  Brown has steadily been ahead of UAV development.  Well, that or he has some serious inside connections who don't mind him giving away the farm in his books.  Now we're experimenting with controlling multiple UAVs from one source or controller, using computers to fill in the gaps between human inputs.



All of those things have been on the drawing board for years.
Sometimes it's a combination of willingness and technology finally coming together.
Just because he wrote about them, don't think that he invented them.
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