NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California has licensed a rocket-launching concept to Fenix Space and is in discussions with another company that wants to further develop the new technology for deploying satellites into orbit.
The Towed-Glider Air Launch System seeks to employ a private jet that would pull an unmanned sailplane carrying a launch vehicle to an altitude of 40,000 feet for space payload deployment, NASA said Oct. 25.
Armstrong researchers designed the system to carry rockets that are heavier than air-launched vehicles and platforms that use ground-based rockets.
They tested the TGALS proof of concept during a demonstration flight that involved the use of radio-controlled glider and rocket models, a twin-hulled glider and the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone.
Other prior experiments by the research team feature a glider designed to carry an 80,000-pound launch vehicle.
Ben Tomlinson, technology transfer officer at NASA Armstrong, said he believes the system has the potential to support the Department of Defense’s hypersonic missile programs such as Sky Range.