NASA has successfully flight-tested a prototype twin-fuselage towed glider that could lead to rockets being launched from pilotless aircraft at high altitudes – a technology application that could significantly reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of sending small satellites into space. The first flights of the one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider took place Oct. 21 from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.
The towed glider is an element of the novel rocket-launching concept of the Towed Glider Air-Launch System, or TGALS. NASA Armstrong researchers are developing the project, which is funded as a part of the Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Game Changing Development program.
The 27-foot-wingspan towed glider was towed behind the Dryden Remotely Operated Integrated Drone, or DROID, unmanned aircraft into the blue skies above Edwards Air Force Base. Minutes later the towline was released and the twin fuselage aircraft glided to a perfect landing on the dry lakebed.
After reviewing wind conditions and checking the systems of both aircraft, mission managers decided to go for a second flight. As with the first, the glider was towed behind the DROID, leveled out in flight and the glider was released for another free flight to the dry lakebed.