launch, reusable launch vehicles, rapid turnaround operations, and so on, for support of the future mission needs of the Air Force commands.

The activities in Space Access pursued by AFRL include propulsion, thermal protection systems, aerothermodynamics of high-speed vehicles, integrated vehicle health management systems, simulation-based research and development, and others. The following is a representative list of AFRL technology programs:

  • Integrated high-payoff rocket propulsion technology (IHPRPT)

  • Integrated powerhead demonstrators

  • Reusable access to space-Technology (RAS-T)

  • X-43B

  • Force Application and Launch from CONUS (FALCON)

  • Hydrocarbon scramjet development (one effort of HyTech)


There are significant NAI demonstration programs within DARPA.

Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch

Responsive Access, Small Cargo, Affordable Launch (RASCAL) is a three-phase demonstration program to provide a path toward a revolution in rapid access to space. RASCAL consists of a reusable aircraft as the launch platform and a two-stage expendable rocket vehicle for accelerating a 165-lb payload to orbital velocity. The RASCAL aircraft utilizes standard military jet engines augmented by mass injection precompressor cooling (MIPCC), which allows operation at higher velocities and altitudes. Figure D-1 illustrates the system.

While still in the atmosphere, the RASCAL aircraft accelerates to a high velocity and begins a steep climb. With MIPCC, the aircraft accelerates while climbing until the engines are shut down at 100,000 feet and then coasts to an altitude of 200,000 feet, where the expendable rockets are released. The aircraft then reenters the atmosphere and returns to its base of operations. An operational system would be capable of rapid turnaround.

Force Application and Launch from CONUS

DARPA and the Air Force are jointly sponsoring the FALCON program to develop technologies and demonstrate capabilities that will enable Prompt Global Strike from the continental United States. The small launch vehicle (SLV) that is part of FALCON (Figure D-2) will serve a twofold function in that it will also provide a low-cost responsive capability for launching satellites up to the 2,000-lb class into Sun-synchronous orbit.

For the access-to-space application, the SLV must be at least an order of magnitude more responsive than existing satellite launch systems and must have a low launch cost. The program will pursue development of an innovative concept possessing these attributes for flight demonstration in the 2007 time frame. The program will also seek to develop a unique CONOPS that will support and enable both the responsiveness and low-cost system objectives.

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