AirLaunch A new air-launch system under
development by The Boeing Company and Thiokol Propulsion could
increase U.S. military tactical responsiveness and expand Boeing civil and
commercial launch capabilities.

Designed as a possible launch system for the U.S. Air Force’s proposed
Space Maneuver Vehicle (SMV), AirLaunch would lift approximately 7,500 lb.
(3,000 kg.) to low Earth orbit (LEO), with launch-on-demand features at
competitive prices.
SMV is a small, unpiloted reusable spacecraft designed to
support a variety of military space missions ranging from satellite deployment
to terrestrial and on-orbit support.

While the AirLaunch system is being developed primarily as a near-term,
low-cost, launch-on-demand system for the military, “its additional
capabilities would advance the Company’s overall launch vehicle strategy,”
said Rick Stephens, vice president and general manager of Boeing Reusable
Space Systems.
“AirLaunch could be used to support the deployment and
replenishment of LEO communications satellites, hypersonic research, remote
sensing and technology development.”

AirLaunch also will complement the Boeing launch vehicle family, which
includes the Delta family of expendable launch vehicles, Sea Launch, and
NASA’s Space Shuttle, as well as programs that will develop from the joint
NASA/Boeing X-37 program, Stephens added.

“AirLaunch leverages the Boeing Phantom Works ability to secure the best
technologies from throughout our Company to meet customer requirements,” said
Ron Prosser, vice president of Advanced Space & Communications for the Boeing
Phantom Works.
“We feel AirLaunch could fulfill many of the new mission
scenarios envisioned by Air Force Space Command and identified in its
Long-Range Plan.”

The AirLaunch system consists of two basic configurations.
The first
would support the military and would be capable of placing an SMV into LEO.
The second configuration would be available for civil, commercial and military
applications using a Conventional Payload Module.

Boeing defined its AirLaunch system during a two-phase study conducted
during 1999, and keeping development and recurring costs to a minimum was a
priority, according to Jim Rooney, AirLaunch program manager, Boeing Phantom

As a strategic corporate partner with Boeing, Thiokol Propulsion would
provide the AirLaunch solid rocket motors in a multi-stage configuration.
Currently, Thiokol has existing solid rocket motors suitable for the first two
stages and is working on a design that is well matched for the AirLaunch third

“Thiokol supports the Boeing approach and execution strategies to provide
near-term solutions for the Air Force,” said Robert Crippen, Thiokol
Propulsion president.
“The AirLaunch system will revolutionize space
transportation for both national and commercial needs by combining new
low-risk technologies together with demonstrated legacy systems,” he said.

A modified Boeing 747-400F will carry the AirLaunch vehicle to a
predetermined launch altitude.
During the launch sequence the vehicle’s wing
and tail assembly will provide the necessary lift and lateral stability until
747/launch vehicle separation is achieved.
After ignition, the launch vehicle
wing and tail assembly will be jettisoned.