^^^^ This brings to mind an idea I've always had.....
At the start of the 'space age', there was the pressing imperative of the cold war.
This pretty quickly settled on the idea of putting nuclear weapons on missiles and lobbing them at the enemy.
Therefore, the technological development was focussed on missiles and their analogues, rockets.
This was effectively a 'duel-use' technology development program, attempting to 'kill two birds with one stone'.
However, purely as a matter of putting a delicate satellite in orbit, ground-launched rockets for orbiting satellites always seemed like a dumb approach, IMHO (as a complete amature in space systems). While I can see the appropriateness of such a system for weapons delivery, it never made sense to me as a means of putting satellites into orbit.
For starters, the ground-based rocket must punch-through the densest part of the atmosphere; requiring a lot of fuel and generating tremendous physical stresses on the satellite systems upon launch. I would argue, it makes much more sense to 'use' the atmosphere as much as possible....
This idea always conjured in my mind, images of large, jet-powered aircraft that would rise to the very height of their service ceiling, using aerodynamic lift to gain altitude, rather than trying to punch through the air with brute force and no aerodynamic lift, the way rockets do. Such an aircraft would thereby rise above the thickest part of the atmosphere, perhaps even fire a couple of underwing rocket motors to gain a bit more altitude; then pitch into a steep nosedive and miraculously expell an upward-pointing rocket out the back of the main body of the aircraft, with engines ignited a moment later.................!
Now it seems, the new generation of private space exploration companies have taken up a variation of this same idea, with some launching orbital vehicles that were first brought to high altitude by jet powered aircraft.
The idea suggested earlier in this thread, is simply the inverse of this one....
The cold war has lead us to use weapons-appropriate technologies for non-military purposes.
Will the smarter way forward lead us to use civilian-appropriate technologies for military purposes?
If it did, would this indeed amount to progress? (I would suggest, no.)Should air-launched rockets be pursued? ABSOLUTELY YES,
because the energy economics and technological advantages speak for themselves to anyone prepared to listen open-mindedly. IN FACT, IMHO, large-scale, air-launched rocket systems used to place PV satellites into geo-synchronous orbits so they can beam microwave-band energy back to earth, thereby providing clean, green, baseload electric power, 24x7...
this is the best hope for humanity, if our continued existence on this planet is not to lead to its death.
For more information visit http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/
To those who do, and who want to discount the idea as being too expensive; consider that the idea of using air-launched rockets to orbit these satellites has not been factored-in, and should be; because this is very obviously the best way to drive-down satellite launch costs, IMHO (as an amature aerospace engineer with extensive experience using LEGO).