A thrust power of a gas-driven laser-propulsion system is obtained through interaction with a propellant gas heated by a laser energy. Therefore, understanding the nonequilibrium nature of laser-produced plasma is essential for increasing available thrust force and for improving energy conversion efficiency from a laser to a propellant gas. In this work, a time-dependent collisional-radiative model for air plasma has been developed to study the effects of nonequilibrium atomic and molecular processes on population densities for an air-driven type laser propulsion. Many elementary processes are considered in the number density range of 1012/cm3 ≤ N ≤ 1019/cm3 and the temperature range of 300 K ≤ T ≤ 40,000 K. We then compute the unsteady nature of pulsively heated air plasma. When the ionization relaxation time is the same order as the time scale of a heating pulse, the effects of unsteady ionization are important for estimating air plasma states. From parametric computations, we determine the appropriate conditions for the collisional-radiative steady state, local thermodynamic equilibrium, and corona equilibrium models in that density and temperature range.