Japan Looks to Develop Pegasus-Style Midair Launcher System

What future for midair rocket launches?
Daily Yomiuri

The government has embarked on the development of midair rocket-launching technology, a new method of firing off rockets, in the hope the technique can be put into practical use. In a midair rocket launch, a small rocket takes a satellite into orbit after being launched from a plane over open seas. Such midair rocket launches have been used for commercial purposes by the United States for about 20 years.

…The Institute for Unmanned Space Experiment Free Flyer (USEF), a government-backed nonprofit organization under the ministry’s umbrella, has been conducting basic studies for the past three years on the technological and legal considerations involved in developing a midair rocket-launch system.

The government has just given the go-ahead for full-fledged development of the system and has earmarked a subsidy for the project in the nation’s budget for fiscal 2009.

Meanwhile, another major space technology-related research body, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), which falls under the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, said at the end of last year that it intended to begin studies of a midair rocket-launching program.

Read the full story.