In the late 1940s, when the urgent need arose for a rocket that could deliver an atomic bomb, there was only one successful example to copy – the Nazis’ V2.
The urgency, coupled with the technical success of the V2, meant that no practical alternatives were considered.
As a result, for the last seventy years the most inefficient and wasteful transportation system on the planet has been the one used to get away from it. A rocket launch typically costs over $30 million and it carries its own oxygen up with it, using over two tons for every ton of fuel.
The Swala concept is of a small, simple reusable launch vehicle (RLV) that uses existing technology and systems. It would enable the insertion of a half-ton payload into low earth orbit (LEO), on call and at need, for about $3,000 a kilogram, which matches the lowest current price.
It does this by using the oxygen in the atmosphere to burn the fuel needed to carry the vehicle up to about 30km at Mach 3, and a solid fuel motor to carry it to LEO thereafter. By jettisoning the ramjets (for reuse) and having no landing gear (it lands back on the launch carriage) this small and lightweight spaceplane achieves full reusability.
At a time when rockets are getting bigger and bigger and satellites smaller and smaller, the Swala spaceplane enables individual satellite operators to specify when and where orbital insertions occur – at short notice.
For more background to the Swala concept, read this article from The Space Review.