The task of actually launching a satellite into space is one of the hardest, and most expensive, parts of the equation. So DARPA has built a fighter jet to hopefully replace all those pricey rockets.
A new concept video has been released showing off the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program, which is basically an extremely cool-looking fighter jet capable of launching a satellite. Considering it was developed by DARPA, it’d stand to reason the tech is being eyed for military applications, though the potential uses could be far-reaching.
At its core, ALASA is essentially a reconfigured F-15 fighter that has been rigged to carry a small expendable launch vehicle underneath it. Once the F-15 gets high enough, it’ll fire off the small rocket (which contains the satellite). The agency is planning a test later this year, and if all goes well, it could make the task of launching a satellite a whole lot easier.
Ideally, the tech will allow for smaller satellites to be fired off into space cheaply and at a faster clip. Currently, smaller satellites usually have to wait and catch a lift on a larger mission payload — which isn’t really conducive for the company trying to launch the smaller satellite, since they’d have little control over the timetable. DARPA is planning several test flights, with the first kicking off later this year.
It’s a cool concept, and honestly makes a ton of sense. By piggybacking on the F-15, it cuts out a ton of effort for the satellite booster. We’ll be curious to see how the test goes.