Feeds

US airforce looking at winged-rocket booster 'X-plane'

'VTHL': Cheaper than disposables, proper spaceplanes

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

The US Air Force has announced that it is interested in a "Reusable Booster System" (RBS) - a combination of rocket and aeroplane which could replace the first stage of existing orbital launch stacks. After the upper stages separated and carried on into space, the winged RBS would glide down to a winged landing for refuelling and subsequent re-use.

US Air Force concept of the Reusable Booster in action

Up, up and... back down

The RBS plans are the subject of a "concept options maturation study" announced this week by the Air Force Research Laboratory, aimed at an expected "integrated demonstration project" in future. In outline, the air force boffins set out what they're interested in doing:

Studies have suggested that a Reusable Booster System (RBS) could reduce the cost of space transportation by significantly reducing the amount of flight hardware expended to achieve orbit while maintaining a moderate vehicle stack weight and associated development cost ... The architecture consists of a reusable booster that can be integrated with a family of expendable stages to support the full range of [military] payloads from suborbital missions to operationally responsive payloads to heavy-lift missions.

There are loads of different ideas around for re-usable first stage boosters. It's already possible to use a modified jet airliner, for instance, to lift a small satellite-carrying rocket rocket up to launch height and speed. There's a similar scheme to launch small satellites from the Virgin Galactic "mothership" jet.

In other ploys, the lower stages might include rocket engines of their own, or super-high-tech hypersonic air-breathing engines - scramjets or things even more exotic. There are even ambitious plans which might one day produce a single craft able to reach orbit from a runway takeoff.

Alternatively you might build something relatively prosaic and achievable like a normal rocket booster which lifts off vertically and then tips over to fly back down like a plane after saying goodbye to the throwaway upper stages and payload. This, it seems, is what the airforce lab boys have in mind. They also have firm ideas as to what kind of rocket they want:

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.