The development of space rocket launch systems is underwayin several directions at once, while developers are trying to minimize the cost of putting satellites into orbit. One of the promising areas is air launch, which reduces fuel consumption due to the absence of the need to overcome dense layers of the atmosphere by a rocket. The American startup Leo Aerospace proposed using technology to launch rockets from the stratosphere, delivered there by balloons.
The idea of an air start usingBalloons have already been tested in the 60s of the last century by the US Air Force. However, then the technology showed its inefficiency. Currently, this method may become promising for the launch into space of small satellites of the cubesat class.
Leo Aerospace developers explain thatThe main advantages of launching with balloons are fuel economy and the absence of the need to create a complex ground-based infrastructure to launch launch vehicles. As a result, a missile launched from the air can have relatively small dimensions, can be immersed in a standard container and delivered to an optimal launch site.
Modern launchers are tied toground-based infrastructure, which imposes restrictions on launch time, which can be affected by many factors, including weather conditions. The technology offered by Leo Aerospace is devoid of all these problems and will significantly increase the payload for relatively small rocket carriers.
The system tested in the last centuryprovided for the launch of the rocket through the balloon, which excluded its reuse. The new launch scheme provides for reusable balls made of especially durable reinforced ripstop fabric. Also, instead of helium, simply heated air will be used. As a result, the object can be displayed at a height of 18 km. Balloon control is assigned to electronic units operating in standalone mode, as well as several maneuverable engines.
After the rocket reaches the set heightreceives a start signal and takes off at a certain angle from a special platform. The Leo Aerospace rocket carrier is capable of delivering a satellite weighing 25 kg to an altitude of up to 550 km or a 50 kilogram satellite into orbit 330 km high. The launch balloon itself after launch returns to Earth. The balloon is 91.5 meters high and 48.75 meters wide.
The test launch of a small prototype with the launch into low orbit will be carried out as early as next year, and the first commercial launch of the satellite into orbit can be carried out already in 2022.
The use of platforms is also foreseen.Leo Aerospace for launching unmanned aerial vehicles, as well as elevating a variety of scientific equipment. Platform loading capacity is from 3.5 to 23 tons and depends on the height to which the objects must be delivered.