NASA's satellite launching concept is called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS.  Credit: NASA

NASA’s satellite launching concept is called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS.
Credit: NASA

 

NASA is pressing ahead on an air-launched concept to toss small spacecraft into Earth orbit.

The rocket-launching concept is called the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS.

The first flights of the one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider took place last year at the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

 One of NASA Armstrong’s DROID small unmanned research aircraft tows the twin-fuselage towed glider into the blue sky on its first test flight. Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

One of NASA Armstrong’s DROID small unmanned research aircraft tows the twin-fuselage towed glider into the blue sky on its first test flight.
Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

That test program involved a 27-foot-wingspan glider that was towed behind the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone, or DROID, in the skies above Edwards Air Force Base. Once the towline was released, the twin fuselage aircraft glided to a landing on the dry lakebed.

NASA Armstrong researchers are developing TGALS, which is funded as a part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program.

The one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider rests on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base prior to its first flight Oct. 21, 2014 in this photo shot with a 16-mm. fisheye lens. Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

The one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider rests on the Rogers Dry Lake at Edwards Air Force Base prior to its first flight Oct. 21, 2014 in this photo shot with a 16-mm. fisheye lens.
Credit: NASA Armstrong/Tom Tschida

In a test of the launch scenario, NASA plans to outfit TGALS with a scale-model Mini Sprite rocket, built by Whittinghill Aerospace of Camarillo, California. That firm is investigating many modular designs for 3, 4, and 5 stage vehicles of different (solid, liquid, and hybrid) propellant types.

The TGALS demonstration’s goal is to provide proof-of-concept of a towed, airborne launch platform.

 

Check out this video at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDhvf_ou4FQ#t=52

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