Aerospike Rockets for Increased Space Launch Capability
The US Department of Defense DOD increasingly depends on space assets for everyday operations. Precision navigation communications and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance satellites are highly leveraged space assets. The launch vehicles that place these satellites in orbit are a major limitation of current space systems. If higher-performing launch vehicles were available, many satellites could accommodate additional capabilities, whether in terms of more sensor channels, types of payloads, electrical power, or propellant for orbital maneuvering and station keeping. Space assets are typically designed to conform to a particular launch vehicle s limitations e.g., engineers might design a satellite to be carried by a Delta IV-2 medium launch vehicle. Essentially, this choice of vehicle fixes the maximum mass of the satellite and, thus, its capabilities. If a launcher capable of placing more mass in the desired orbit were available at similar cost, the satellite s design could allow for additional capability. Furthermore, some payloads are too heavy for present-day launch vehicles to place into a particular orbit. A better-performing launcher would enable us to put those payloads into the desired orbits, permitting new missions and capabilities.
Air and Space Power Journal
Hartsfield, C. R., Branam, R. D., Hall, J., & Simmons, J. (2011). Aerospike Rockets for Increased Space Launch Capability. Air and Space Power Journal, 25(2), 65–73.