Would it be physically possible to use a plane to assist heavier rockets with their launches (I know orbital ATK launches their pegasus rockets from planes but would it be possible to launch something closer to the Falcon or Atlas class)

  • $\begingroup$ This is a dupe of the third question at xkcd: what-if.xkcd.com/58 ... where the answer is explained much more amusingly than we can manage. $\endgroup$ – Martin Bonner supports Monica Jul 23 '18 at 12:14
  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to space.stackexchange. Your question is a good one, but it has been asked, and answered a number of times on this very stackexchange, and for that reason, I've voted to close it. If there are specific aspects of the replies on the linked question(s) that you don't understand, feel free to ask a more specific question $\endgroup$ – Steve Linton Jul 23 '18 at 12:21

The largest payload ever lifted by an aircraft is around 250 tons for the Antonov An-225. The Arianespace Vega can orbit about 2.5 tons from a starting weight of 130 tons, so the An-225 could be used as a starting point for a launcher with a 5-ton capacity to LEO.

A Falcon 9 weighs 550 tons.

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  • $\begingroup$ the AN-225 was proposed to be used in Interim HOTOL, $\endgroup$ – JCRM Jul 23 '18 at 12:37

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