The Technion Israel Institute of Technology is developing a system to air-launch small satellites from a Lockheed Martin C-130 transport aircraft. The system would place 100-300kg (220-660lb) satellites into 350-500km (220-310 miles) circular orbits.

The two-stage launch vehicle would be parachuted from a C-130, firing its engine after separation from the parachutes. Preliminary design of the first-stage rocket engine, separation system and thrust control is complete. Windtunnel tests have simulated parachute extraction of the launcher from the aircraft.

The project is being carried out by students from the institute's Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, supervised by Israel Aircraft Industries' MLM division.

Israel launches its satellites to the west, opposite to the Earth's rotation, losing energy and reducing lifting capability. Air launch would enable eastward launches.

Source: Flight International