Washington, Apr 5 (PTI) A US startup is seeking to open up access to space for micro-satellite companies by modernising a launch technique first used in the 1950s.

Leo Aerospace LLC, a company affiliated to Purdue University in the US, plans to use “rockoons” or high-altitude balloons, that launch rockets into suborbital and orbital flights.

Suborbital launches are frequently used by researchers who need access to zero gravity or vacuums for experiment, while orbital flights are used by satellites.

The company will revolutionise the space industry by giving priority service to micro-satellite developers that now are secondary payloads for large rocket companies, officials at Leo Aerospace said in a statement.

Currently, developers have to wait to see if there is room left on large rockets carrying government payloads and often have to wait six months or more to find space on a rocket, a delay that can be quite costly.

Those micro-satellite developers also have limited options on which orbit their satellites are delivered to and when they are launched.

“Our goal is to give people access to space. The only way to do that right now is to help people get their satellite into orbit. That is where we want to leave our mark,” said Abishek Murali, head of mission engineering at Leo Aerospace.

The company plans to harness physics to cut costs and expand mission capabilities.

The cost of sending a satellite into space can be up to USD 60,000 a kilogramme.

Leo Aerospace is confident it can lower that cost to launch micro-satellites, which can weigh one to 50 kilogrammes.

The rockoon was first used by the US Air Force in the 1950s.

A hybrid of a rocket and high-altitude balloon, the rockoon is less expensive to deploy than a traditional rocket.

There is less drag because the rocket is not launched until the balloon is about 18 kilometres above Earth, where there is 95 per cent less atmosphere to cause drag.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.