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For a long time, flights into space were reserved exclusively for state authorities and agencies. In the meantime, however, there are also a number of private providers in this area.
Sometimes they even take on elementary tasks. SpaceX recently successfully carried out the first regular passenger transport to the International Space Station ISS.
The increasing spread of private providers results in two very positive aspects: The costs are falling and innovative approaches are increasingly emerging. One example is the US company Aevum.
Because the company has developed a huge drone with a wingspan of 18 meters and a weight of 5.5 tons. The highlight: The unmanned flying object should initially lift rockets a few kilometers into the air before they disengage and take off independently in the direction of space.
Missiles have also been launched from airplanes
In order to lift the 100 to 500-kilogram satellites into the air, the drone needs a runway around 1.5 kilometers long. The entire cycle from takeoff to landing should take around three hours.
The advantage of this approach is that the missiles themselves have to use less energy to get to their intended height. This simplifies the work for the engineers and can help to save costs. The concept behind it is also not entirely untried.
The US company Orbital Sciences Corporation launched a launch vehicle from an airplane for the first time in 1990. The space start-up Virgin Galactic wants to proceed in a very similar way in the future. The specialty of the Ravn-X drone, however, is that no human pilot has to be on board.
The drone could further reduce costs
In theory, it would therefore even be conceivable that a corresponding fleet of drones could transport rockets towards space around the clock.
The developers also promise that around 70 percent of the system can be reused on the first few flights. Later this value should even increase to 95 percent. The drone could thus also make a contribution to sustainability in space travel.
Aevum wants to convince customers above all with the cost argument. The system should be able to transport one kilogram of payload into space for a low to the mid-four-digit dollar amount.
At least the US military has already been convinced of this. The first order for the new rocket launch drone will be to launch a satellite for the US Space Force.