Proceedings of the RAND Project AIR FORCE Workshop on Transatmospheric Vehicles
It may be possible for transatmospheric vehicles (TAVs) to insert payloads into low earth orbit or deliver payloads to distant targets within minutes, to carry out various types of military, civil, and commercial missions. The promise of TAVs lies in their reusability and their potential capability to launch payloads at much lower cost than existing rockets. In addition, if they were operated more like aircraft and less like rockets, they could permit responsive and flexible space operations, features that would be useful for a number of military missions. However, in spite of substantial past research, technology challenges remain, especially in propulsion, thermal protection systems, and overall vehicle integration. A workshop was held at RAND in April 1995 to examine TAV mission, technical feasibility, and design issues. This report summarizes the proceedings of that workshop and subsequent research into relevant questions flowing from the discussions.