Satellite Launcher

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The Satellite Launcher is a high altitude plane carrying a small rocket propelled satellite.

Description

A conventional jet equipped with a small rocket to demonstrate feasibility of rocket launches from high altutude [sic].

Squad

Specifications

The Satellite Launcher may be based on DARPA's ALASA (Airborne Launch Assist Space Access) concept for launching a small satellite into orbit with a rocket carried by an airplane.

Carrier

The carrier airplane is a small Mk1 airplane powered by a J-404 "Panther" Afterburning Turbofan. It has LY-50 Medium Landing Gear to achieve enough clearance to carry the rocket under its fuselage.

Rocket

The rocket has two stages, the first powered by a 48-7S "Spark" Liquid Fuel Engine and the second powered by a pair of LV-1R "Spider" Liquid Fuel Engines. The upper stage includes the probe core and scientific experiments.

Capabilities

The satellite has 3.65 km/s of delta-V (1.9 in its first stage, 1.75 in the second), which is theoretically enough to reach orbit on its own, but it cannot in practice because it has a very low thrust-to-weight ratio (1.3 for the first stage in atmosphere and 0.8 for the second). The best practice is to place the launcher into a fast and fairly steep climb (20-30 degrees with afterburner active) to allow the spacecraft to use its meager TWR to accelerate rather than fight gravity. If released at a speed of 700 or more m/s and an altitude of 20 or more km, the satellite will achieve orbit with its second stage mostly full, leaving it with approximately 1600 m/s of delta-V -- enough to achieve lunar or interplanetary orbits and, on small bodies, landings.

Challenges

The stock game cannot track multiple flights in the atmosphere -- as soon as the rocket is far enough away from the carrier, the carrier will be destroyed and the pilot will be lost. A mod such as StageRecovery or Flight Manager for Reusable Stages will be necessary to allow the carrier to be recovered after separation.