A B-52 at Edwards AFB, Calif., recently launched Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles from an internal bay for the first time. While Stratofortresses have for decades been able to carry the cruise missiles on external pylons, the Air Force has been developing the capability to carry the missiles on an internal conventional rotary launcher to increase the total payload of the aircraft. “This was a first-ever for the B-52, and is also going to be another amazing enhancement in B-52 combat capability for Global Strike,” Brig. Gen. Carl Schaefer, commander of the 412th Test Wing, said in an Edwards release. The internal launcher could eventually increase the B-52’s total payload by more than 60 percent, and can also increase fuel efficiency by reducing drag, according to the Air Force. The Edwards team is now looking to test launch a Miniature Air Launch Decoy from the same internal launcher, the release states. (See also: Training With the Upgraded B-52.)
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.