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Scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory recently flight tested a new solid-fuel rocket motor design at the Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center's Socorro launch site. By separating the the fuel from the oxidizer, it adds a higher level of safety to conventional designs. This enabled the use of higher-energy propellants. The new rocket design was tested against conventional, high-energy commercial rockets to enable a comparison of data gathered on velocity, altitude, burn rate, and other parameters. Credit: Los Alamos National Lab

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Commentary | Bring Back Project Pilot

Matt Bile writes:

Most people have never heard of Project Pilot, the U.S. Navy’s maverick air-launched orbital booster program of 1958. Those who have call it an interesting failure. The project probably put one satellite in orbit in six launch attempts. It had minimal effect on the future: The designer of today’s only air-launched booster, the Pegasus, was unaware it existed.

I propose that we bring it back.

Bring all of it back: the shoestring budget, the small team and the lack of structure, reporting and paperwork. If we can’t do all the things in the outlandish concept I’m about to lay out, then let’s at least talk about which parts we can do. We know that no effort since 1958 has given us a cheap responsive launcher, so let’s consider something so crazy it just might work.

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