An air launch system is based on the use of an aircraft as “first stage” of a launch system devoted to the injection into orbit of small spacecraft or soundy rockets, in order to:
1. Reduce constraints due to the atmospheric environment
The aircraft crosses the dense atmospheric layers of the trajectory which are the most critical. Therefore lighter materials may be adopted for the launcher’s structure, the nozzle can be adapted to the vacuum environment conditions and the trajectory design together with the guidance system can be optimized in absence of the constraints induced by the atmospheric drag.
2. Improve flexibility
The aircraft can realise the launcher in a free area to allow a safe reentry of the exhausted stages and the take-off point, together with the final orbit and the relative inclination, might be easily optimized accordingly to the mission requirements
3. Improve efficiency and reduce costs
Ground operations are reduced to the ordinary procedure of an aircraft lift off, moreover air launched systems are a sort of reusable space launcher. Air dropped space launchers are released at altitudes ranging from 5 to 15000[m].