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Alternative “Air-Launched Sortie Vehicle”-type design by Rockwell International. Although the
US Air Force had been developing experimental spaceplanes and winged reentry vehicles since
Dyna Soar was cancelled in 1964, the idea of an operational “Trans-Atmospheric Vehicle” did not
gain momentum until the early 1980s.
Two Rockwell TAV concepts from 1980. The Trans-Atmospheric Vehicle would have the capability to
routinely cruise and maneuver into and out of the atmosphere -- either to gain rapid
responsiveness for military low Earth orbit missions or to attain very rapid intercontinental
transport services from conventional military airports. The USAF Flight Dynamics Laboratory
contracted with Rockwell and General Dynamics in the “Advanced Military Spaceflight Capability
Technology Identification” program which investigated critical technologies in various ground-
or air-launched systems.
Rockwell TAV designs: vertical launch, horizontal landing two-stage-to-orbit (top);
single-stage-to-orbit w. subsonic air launch (center); vertical takeoff, horizontal landing
This alternative Rockwell TAV rocketplane would have been launched from a pilotless jet-powered
“flying sled” much like the NASA/Langley Research Center's
. The liftoff speed is low
despite the rocketplane's short wings and high propellant load -- potentially safer and easier
than a high-speed ground accelerator launch.