Hot Air Balloons to Launch Satellites Now

Hot Air Balloons to Launch Satellites Now

The small-satellite launch system will be mobile, capable of launching off the back of a semi-truck, which will hold the bantam spacecraft using a rocket dropped from a giant hot air balloon about 60,000 feet above Earth's surface

Fremont, CA: Leo Aerospace, a Los Angeles-based startup, is on the verge of developing a small-satellite launch system using a rocket and a big hot-air balloon. The system will be mobile, capable of launching off the back of a semi-truck which will hold the bantam spacecraft using a rocket dropped from a giant hot air balloon about 60,000 feet above Earth's surface.

During the 1950s, such rockoons were at its zenith when they were employed on dozens of suborbital atmospheric-research flights. But they were in the headlines on that decade only and have not made any advancements since then.

Regulus, as it's named, Leo Aerospace's autonomous aerostat is far more advanced than the simple helium balloons of 60 years ago. Regulus has multiple inbuilt features like maintain long term stability and orientation. According to Leo Aerospace's website, the rocket will be capable of launching 73 lbs. (33 kilograms) of load up to a 340 mile high (550 kilometers) sun-synchronous orbit. Apart from this, it can take 126 lbs. (57 kg) to a circular orbit 186 miles (300km) up. Regulus, along with a 10-foot long (3m) rocket, can also be used for suborbital missions, which will be able to lift 220 lbs (100kg) to an altitude of 250 miles (400km).

These rockets will be expendable, and Regulus is designed for extensive and rapid use. Each balloon will be able to go around 100 missions. The system is mobile, employing a semi-truck as a launching pad and can be launched from anywhere a cargo container can be fit.

The company is yet to disclose exactly how much it is going to charge for an orbital launch, but it is expected that the cost will be likely one to three times what customers are currently paying for 'ride-share' access on big rockets like Falcon 9. Unlike ride-share participants, where they have no control where their satellites are deployed, Leo Aerospace will offer small-satellites launched operators the control with a dedicated launch.

Regulus may hit the high-altitude market platform by the middle of next year, and Leo Aerospace can start providing sub-orbital launches by 2021 and orbital missions by the end of 2022 if everything goes according to the plan. Leo Aerospace got a funding of $750,000 million by the Air Force during Space Pitch Day, a two-day event to make the Air Force more agile and flexible with the deployment of important aerospace technology.

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