The Air Force Research Laboratory is starting up a $33 million program to develop a booster rocket that can make it back to its launch site on its own.
These rockets would be used not in warfare, but in the launching of spacecraft. Right now most satellites are launched with one time use boosters. The space shuttle is launched with a pair of massive reusable solid state boosters (above) that detach two minutes into flight, parachute down to the Atlantic, and must be retrieved by a couple of specially equipped NASA ships.
Not spaceships. Just regular ships.
The Air Force is looking for:
a prototype booster that can glide or fly itself back to the launch site. The first step of the program likely would be aimed at demonstrating a turn-around maneuver known as “rocket-back,” whereby a rocket would use its own engines to fly back to the launch site and glide in for landing.
Got ideas? Don’t sweat it. The first test flights are set for 2013. Of course, you’ll be competing against Lockheed Martin and a company founded by Buzz Aldrin himself. Piece of cake.
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