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Sparoair-2 (under F4D-1 Skyray)

Sparoair-3 (under F4H Phantom)

The Sparoair were a family of small, air-launched sounding rockets developed by the USNavy. They used Sparrow motors as the first stage and second tandem mounted Sparrow as a second stage or later a more powerful second stage.

Sparoair-1 used discarded Sparrow motors, which were deemed unsafe to be fired directly from a crewed airplane. Therefore the vehicle was dropped and after 5 seconds ignited. It could carry 18 kg to a height of 160 km. F-3H Cougar or F4D-1 Skyray aircraft were used to launch these rockets. About 60 vehicles were launched until 1963. Problems to ignite the rocket led to the replacement with the Sparoair-2.

Sparoair-2 was essentially the same, but used motors, that were safe to be launched directly from the aircrafts launching rail. This allowed for simpler, more reliable igniters.

Sparoair-3 was an improved version capable to launch 13.5 kg to a height of 320 km. Therefore it used the more powerful F4H Phantom aircraft and a more capable second stage.

Vehicle Aircraft Stage 1 Stage 2
Sparoair-1 F3H Cougar or F4D-1 Skyray Sparrow Sparrow
Sparoair-2 F3H Cougar or F4D-1 Skyray Sparrow Sparrow
Sparoair-3 F4H Phantom Sparrow 22.6KS1245
No.  TNo.  Vehicle           Date               LS           Payload

xx    x    Sparoair-1        xx.xx.1960  *      PM / F3H     ?
xx    x    Sparoair-2        xx.xx.1961  *      PM / F3H     ?
xx    x    Sparoair-2        xx.xx.1961  *      PM / F3H     ?
xx    x    Sparoair-1        xx.xx.1963  *      PM / F3H     ?
xx    x    Sparoair-3        01.07.1965  *      PM / F4H     ?
xx    x    Sparoair-3        26.05.1966  *      PM / F3H     ?

(List incomplete)

Launch sites:

PM  = Naval Missile and Astronautics Center, Point Mugu, California, USA USA


  • Scala, Keith J.: 'A History of Air-launched Space Vehicles', in Quest, Spring 1994, p. 36

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