Satellite Launcher

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

The Satellite Launcher on the runway (1.0.5)

Craft 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-35 Medium Landing Gear to achieve enough clearance to carry the rocket under its fuselage.

Rocket

Payload in orbit (1.0.5)

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, which means that once the rocket is launched it will be difficult to ensure the carriers' survival. A mod such as StageRecovery or Flight Manager for Reusable Stages will be necessary to allow the carrier to be recovered after separation.

A possible workaround is to control the aircraft via the satellite directly, or put some form of unmanned command modules on the plane(such as remote guidance units, or probe cores), perhaps together with some parachutes.