Sep 1, 2016 | By Benedict

CubeCab, a company set up to deliver CubeSats into Low Earth Orbit, is hoping to use retired fighter jets and 3D printed rockets to carry out more affordable launches. The company plans to use F-104 fighter jets, introduced in the 1950s and taken out of service in 2004.

CubeSats, small satellites built by various universities across the world, are being launched into orbit in stages in order to carry out research on the atmosphere and perform various other taks. Some, including these 3D printed CubeSats, will be sent to the International Space Station, from which they will later be deployed. Others will be sent into orbit via independent launches. Unfortunately however, due to the long waiting times and costs associated with piggybacking on a launch, many CubeSat developers have either been unable to get their satellites into orbit, or been given frustratingly long waiting times—potentially making their area of study redundant in the meantime.

Luckily for satellite developers, there may soon be another way of getting CubeSats into orbit: through retired F-104 fighter jets and 3D printed rockets. CubeCab is a new business which hopes to make small, CubeSat-filled, 3D printed rockets, each weighing just 5 kg (11 lbs), which can be fired from an F-104 fighter jet into Low Earth Orbit. Because the service will be tailored to CubeSat developers, each customer will be able to request their exact orbit, rather than have to depend on the plans of another more important launch. “We aim to be the FedEx/UPS/USPS of satellite launch,” the company says.

The F-104 jets that would be used to fire the 3D printed, CubeSat-filled rockets are owned by Starfighters Aerospace, which launches its fleet from Cape Canaveral, Florida. According to CubeSat, these jets could be flown to altitudes of around 60,000 feet, where the 3D printed rockets could be launched to release a canister of CubeSats. Starfighters’ retired F-104 jets were acquired from the Italian Air Force, which stopped using the aircraft in 2004.

“We intend to have very fast times between ordering and launching,” Dustin Still, chief operating officer of CubeCab, told the BBC. “We aim for 30 days from order to launch, most launch providers work on the timescale of about two-to-three years from order to launch. A typical mission might be getting an order from a college to launch a CubeSat into a specific orbit. Within a few days later we should get the CubeSat and load it into a rocket we have set aside for launch in Florida for regular equatorial orbits, or another facility or almost any location for a polar orbit launch.”

CubeCab plans to charge $250,000 for each CubeSat delivery—a steep price, but still far cheaper than the cost launching your own rocket. The service, set to launch in 2018, will only be available 3U CubeSat—three 10 x 10 x 10 cm satellites stacked together.

Last year, the US military said it could cut the cost of satellite launches to under $1 million by using fighter jets to launch them into orbit.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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heng wrote at 9/7/2016 12:07:07 PM:

that is what the pegasus does..

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