Launch vehicles

One of the possible configurations of the Vulcan rocket (Image courtesy ULA. All rights reserved)

Yesterday at the 31st National Space Symposium being held in Colorado Springs the United Launch Alliance (ULA) presented the project of its new carrier rocket Vulcan, formerly known as Next Generation Launch System (NGLS). The idea is to combine the best features of ULA’s rockets, Atlas and Delta, with some changes to get one that is still reliable but that also allows cheaper launches. The development of the possibility to recover the first stage engines for their reuse is part of the plan.

Artistic concept of a jet launching a small satellites in the project ALASA (Image courtesy DARPA. All rights reserved)

A the 18th Annual Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference, Bradford Tousley, director of DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office showed the progress of the project ALASA (Airborne Launch Assist Space Access), a system to launch small satellites using an airplane instead of a carrier rocket. This would greatly reduce the cost, currently very high, down to one million dollars for just under 50 kg (100 pounds).