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Air-Launched Launch Vehicle

The Makeyev Design Bureau has also proposed developing the Aerokosmos air-launched space transportation system based on the Shtil-3A or RIF-MA launch vehicles. Using II-76 MD, An-124, or An-225 cargo aircraft as launch platforms, the boosters would be carried internally, air-dropped, retarded by parachutes and then ignited. The Shtil-3A would have a LEO payload capacity of more than 600 kg, while the RIF-MA could carry nearly one metric ton (References 229, 232, 241).

A different air-launch concept was proposed by the Raduga Machine Building Design Bureau of Moscow in 1991. A Tu-160 strategic bomber would carry the Burlak missile under its fuselage for release at a high altitude and speed. The original Burlak design envisioned a payload capacity of 700 kg into equatorial orbits, but improvements were made by 1992 increasing the payload capacity to 1,100 kg. Later, the German space agency DARA joined the conceptual studies, and the launcher name was changed to Diana-Burlak (References 242-244).


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