BATHWATER BABY

BAD BABY BATH?

The Space Launch System throws the baby out and keeps the bath water.  The curse of the shuttle was the boosters that shed death on two missions.  So the lessons of winged reentry are gone and the O-rings of doom are still with us.  (read: “Pork-Barrel”)  Fortunately private industry has kept the dream alive; wings still go to space.

Boeing delivers the X-37 to the Air Force for years of unfailing service.  And Lockheed has proposed using knowledge gained from the SR-71 and the shuttle for Mars Operations.  Using aerodynamic descent is an application of nature and good physics.

x-37-3

THE CHAMPION

Recent Mars mission proposals from Spacex and Lockheed Martin appear to give a nod to wings again.  Well; sort of.  If wings are considered parasitic mass, then rocket fuel and landing gear are too.  So even Spacex vehicles appear to give a little nod to aerodynamic reentry, however reluctantly.

SX MARS 1

THERMAL COATING AND WINGLETS

SX MARS 3

AGAIN, WINGLETS

Lockheed Martin goes right to the point by using lessons learned from the shuttle and their high-speed SR-71 experience:  “Entry into the Martian atmosphere is a separate hurdle for Chambers’ team. Lockheed Martin’s lander would utilize “aero braking,” Chambers says. He said the SR-71 Blackbird — the company’s famed supersonic spyplane — provided lessons about the atmospheric heat loads different materials can endure when it flew for hours and hours under extreme pressure.  “We’re looking at how we solved problems 50 years ago with the SR-71 and learning how we can apply those now,” Chambers added.”  https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/28/lockheed-martin-unveils-fully-reusable-crewed-martian-lander.html

LM MARS 1

VERY AERO

But Lockheed Martin is still deeply involved in aerodynamic thermal issues as it is now engaged in hypersonic research for atmospheric flight.  “Referencing ongoing development of the Darpa/U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory Tactical Boost Glide weapon and Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept research program, the latter in competition with Raytheon, Carvalho says, “Over the last decade progress has been moving quickly, and hypersonic technology is clearly becoming apparent to everyone as a game changer. We continue to advance and test technology which will benefit hypersonic flight and are working on multiple programs, including two Darpa efforts. Speed matters, especially when it comes to national security.”  http://aviationweek.com/technology/amid-sr-72-rumors-skunk-works-ramps-hypersonics

For either mission I would hope they learn from Werner Von Braun and Christopher Columbus:  Take enough ships to rescue all the crew members of all the ships that may be damaged on the journey.  To date we have less than 50% success with unmanned missions to Mars.  Losing a large crew would probably kill the mission for decades at least.

Spacex also announced interest in point to point earth transportation for passengers.  But again, they are illustrating a vertical landing which has not been 100% reliable for even a booster.  Upper stages will be more challenging, and may require a more aerodynamic lift type approach.  We have a few more years to gain experience in this area.  When a rocket is being slowed down to prevent burning up, it may still have a problem before it reaches its designated landing area.  That could result in an un-scheduled un-controlled crash.  That could make a lasting impression…on someone!

Winged vehicles may have control loss too, but the 100% success rate of the X-37 is encouraging.  Aside from booster related incidents the shuttle too left a good safety record.  Exodus Aerospace will only demonstrate basic principles with early prototypes.  But we are encouraged to see big aerospace companies preserving the good lessons of the past.  We have previously pointed out opportunities to combine the best of both worlds.

Aircraft enjoy aerodynamic braking and an air cushion effect known as ground effect.  This makes final approach a comfortable safe operation, but still needs heavy landing gear.  Vertical landing also needs some kind of landing gear and assumes a risky high center of gravity on a narrow tripod.  It must carry fuel for return and landing which is also a mass penalty that wings eliminate.  If a winged lander uses thrusters at the last-minute like the Harrier jet, it can have very light landing gear.  The Soyuz capsule does this to slow the parachute for a soft landing.

Now we may witness a system with no massive fuel load for return and reentry, and a safe stable approach to the runway.  Vertical landing is useful if applied at the right time and place.  But there is no reason to use rocket fuel to handle the bulk of reentry deceleration prior to that point.  Physics favors working with nature instead of working against it. 

If wings are an asset on reentry, they can also work on the ascent phase of the flight.  this is especially true if both stages contribute to lift by working the wings of each in harmony.  Stacking the stages would take the second stage wings out of the ascent effort, making them useless parasitic mass.  By staging the craft in-line both craft contribute to the wing area needed for takeoff and ascent.  Orbital Sciences Pegasus demonstrates value for wings on ascent, but does not re-use that to save any booster stages.  Their air launch vehicle only contributes to 5 miles and 500 miles per hour.  For a mission that needs 17,500 miles per hour the airplane is of little value.  This formula is still limiting Virgin Orbital and Stratolaunch. 

32

WINGS ON THE DOWNSIDE

E18

AND ON THE UPSIDE

Dare we mention the value of in-line staging for hypersonic or atmospheric flight?  piggy back designs are aerodynamic disasters.  But a booster covers the biggest part of the fuel burn, and the second stage can be optimized for efficient cruise.  Cargo and passengers may travel above airspace in a suborbital hop to avoid air traffic.  Unmanned missions would face fewer FAA issues.  Passengers could enjoy their fast travel without the adventure (risk) of Flash Gordon landings.  They could land on a runway near the terminal, not needing a safe distance from occupied buildings.  Cruise missiles would have speed and range without risking air crews or ships.

5

Exodus Aerospace will have a very small beginning.  A tiny prototype can only demonstrate the most basic ideas.  But there is hope in the evidence we see in the industry.  New space is inspiring innovation, but old space is not missing it either.  We notice that Lockheed answers Spacex and also supports new space ventures.  They invested in Xcor and Rocket Lab efforts.  Northrop has acquired Scaled Composites and Orbital Sciences ATK.  What little we can actually build will be noticed because aerospace leaders are staying informed.

There is a huge rush to deliver cube satellite launchers worldwide.  There is little new intellectual property to assure their success though.  If everyone can deliver the same solution you do not assure investors ownership of the market.  If you scale these up they compete with Spacex and the big companies worldwide.  That small satellite market probably won’t support all the ventures that are launching now.

There doesn’t seem to be any history of a horizontal vehicle prototype being flown to date.  Our small venture is targeting that milestone now.  This will at least give investors a chance to own a unique solution with potential for safety and economy of operation.  Unmanned prototypes have market potential for cargo and military missions.  Larger ones may deliver cube satellites while developing bigger markets for heavy launch.  The patents we have now are just the beginning, as we have many problems to solve in new ways ahead of us.  This team is growing with new blood, and building on the experience of those who already went boldly before us.

P5.4 BLUEPRINT

LESS THAN 12 FT. LONG?  AS OTHERS BEFORE US…

DREAM 15

 

Advertisements

MISSION IMPROBABLE

4

NO HOPE A DOPE

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but when a desire is fulfilled, it is a tree of life.  Proverbs 13:12

We need hope, especially in hard times.  There is always hope, and to miss that is foolish sadness.

 

BULL MARKET OR BULLY MARKET?

Dare we enter the launch market with a new venture?  American launch providers may have felt threatened by so many foreign launchers.  Russia, France, and India are all competing.  So Boeing and Lockheed formed a joint venture called ULA.  How much more are they threatened by new ventures like Spacex that cut the cost in half?  So where do we find a solid business case to assail the wall of monopolies?  Perhaps stages are for business plans as well as vehicles.

TARGET ACQUIRED, FIRE ONE!

Previously I posted about the value of medium to heavy satellites over tiny satellites for launch ventures.  How do we best serve these medium and heavy launch markets that need more innovation for economy?  With an open mind we may re-evaluate new and old ideas to continue making progress.

DEFINING THE LINE

There are advantages for horizontal launch, and some for vertical launch.  Both carry penalties of mass for reusability, either fuel and landing gear or wings and thermal protection.  Cost may only be determined in the long term by demonstrated regular reliable service.  Both have been operational with Spacex, the X-37,  and Pegasus.  At a certain altitude every launch goes horizontal to achieve centrifugal force.  The fine point is possibly air-breathing mass savings against drag penalties.  That still leaves some safety and reusability strengths to horizontal methods.  We propose to give horizontal launch more solutions and a shot at real advantages.  But the line between vertical and horizontal needs to be evaluated, and perhaps refined down to the best of each.  The challenge is paying to validate new technologies.

BARRIERS: ANTI-ANTE

You don’t get to bet in poker until you ante up.  For launch technologies the cost is often astronomical, if you will pardon the humorless pun.  Most investment groups are unable to build a medium to heavy launch company from scratch.  A few billionaires are the exception, but there may be other ways.

VERTICAL INTEGRATION VS HORIZONTAL

The basic ownership or integration of the business sees a competition between vertical and horizontal.  If there is a deep supply of money on hand, vertical integration works for companies like Spacex.  They own the whole operation instead of bringing a lot of suppliers from the outside.  This allows them to contain most manufacturing costs and contain their intellectual property.  But horizontal integration frees the company from using temporary workers, as vendors have other projects to keep their people occupied after our assignment is done.  Vendors cover payroll and taxes while the primary company can focus on project management.

It is likely that horizontal integration will cost more.  Did I cover everything…or anything?  Some items must be vendor supplied, even in vertical integration.  Composites, fasteners, actuators, electronics are probably being supplied to the manufacturers.  Reality is probably a hybrid.

Without a big supply of money even a small prototype has engineering costs, so building a larger vehicle only adds a little to material costs.  A new venture might be better off taking on a design that can actually reach a market with real payoffs.  But how do they approach the cost of such a huge venture?  This too may be a hybrid.

VERTICAL LANDING VS HORIZONTAL

We previously described a different kind of hybrid as related to landing a reusable vehicle from space.   A winged orbital vehicle can approach a runway where it briefly experiences a cushion of air known as ground effect.  At that point it is possible for thrusters to provide thrust reversal, crosswind control, and ground cushion.  This is a hybrid of vertical and horizontal landing.  We may also demonstrate a hybrid of vertical and horizontal methods to launching funding as well.

VERTIZONTAL

We can’t throw money at owning every part of these ventures unless we meet “Mr. deep pockets”.  Investors cannot do these monsters in most cases.  But it is possible to create sub-assemblies of ventures that can come together like the sections of a large ship being assembled in shipyards.  Instead of owning everything as vertical, we propose a symbiotic family of semi-horizontally related ventures.

MULTIPLE TECHNOLOGIES

There are many vendors bringing solutions that may boost the vision.  Just being aware of all the new space solutions is a big job.  A subscription to New Space Ventures delivers daily email updates and a huge online spreadsheet tracking worldwide assets.  Even so, new ventures are being delivered daily, and there are still more that remain undiscovered.  Still more are just “mundane” technologies and so many aerospace suppliers that we cannot all be aware of.

MULTIPLE STAGES

This still leaves big ventures with big funding issues.  But any vendor provided technologies may lower that investment challenge.  No need to hire, house, and equip every mission need.  Now we should consider breaking this down by design.  If we identify technology needs we can solicit bidding from outside vendors and our own “child” ventures as well.  This may encourage both innovation and cost control.

Horizontal launch will have special needs not common to vertical launch.  We may be able to encourage vendor firms to service these special needs for any horizontal launch ventures.  Now it is possible for investors and incubators to encourage sub-ventures that provide targeted services and materials.  This will reduce the cost of the primary ventures, and spread investment risks over several smaller technologies.  Investors tend to favor launching many small ventures to assure that some will pay off.

MULTIPLE PARTNERSHIPS

With a competitive opportunity to vendors in sub-assemblies, we may draw far more innovation than one venture could generate.  There are so many technology needs that no individual can be aware of all the opportunities.  Can we spin off new space ventures and help them get funding?  Horizontal launch will offer new opportunities to start small businesses.  Investors may have a wide range of small ventures who may stand to ride along with the needs of horizontal launch builders.  The market chain extends from the launch customers through the airframe builders, and on out to small components and services.  Start your own component or new space service venture!

MODULAR COMPETITION & FUNDING

Here are some of the areas that we all need to consider as we build a horizontal launch technology.  We start with a “paper airplane” that needs basic analysis, design, testing, revisions, and manufacturing.  The first steps cost money, and it just keeps costing.  But that’s good because it provides jobs and builds the economy and a growth industry.  Who is ready to be a designated service provider for affordable launch services?  Our whole design process is driven by our knowledge of available solutions.  If we have better thermal protection, we may gain sharper airfoils and improved aerodynamics.  We already know of several candidates for air-breathing propulsion that can change fuel burn and overall size.  We need to identify, incubate, and fund these services on our way to a profitable future.  On this list I emphasized early critical needs and opportunities for our own venture.  Many of these types of ventures already exist, but can they better target this industry?  Perhaps aerospace should remember that air-breathing missiles are a very similar market!  Students should consider fellowship with others who have these study majors now.  Your connections form today for the needs of tomorrow.  Do you see a market that would challenge you to be an entrepreneur?

SOME KNOWN NEEDS:

  1. BUSINESS MANAGEMENT & MENTORING capable of starting and running with the big dogs
  2. MARKETING for exclusive technologies and advantages
  3. FINANCE cost projection, payroll, taxes, etc.
  4. WEB & IT SERVICES including contract need, announcements, recruiting, etc.
  5. OFFICE AND ADMINISTRATIVE MANAGEMENT communications, records, annual reports
  6. FACILITIES for design, manufacturing
  7. HOUSEKEEPING maintenance: clean rooms for products and producers alike
  8. SECURITY for facility and data against real world threats
  9. RECRUITING grads, skilled workers, engineers, scientists, equity partners
  10. DESIGN SERVICES: CFD, FEA, CAE, stability, etc.
  11. LEGAL SERVICES  incorporation, space law, patents, etc.
  12. STRUCTURAL FABRICATION composite, metals, additive manufacturing
  13. STAGE CONNECTION AND SEPARATION mechanicals and pyro systems
  14. THERMAL PROTECTION for ascent and reentry
  15. AIR BREATHING PROPULSION with high isp
  16. ROCKET PROPULSION so many vendors!
  17. NON-CRYO CLEAN FUELS non toxic performance
  18. CRYOGENIC FUEL TANKS if needed
  19. FUEL BLADDERS works for jet and peroxide
  20. SERVOS, ACTUATION, MECHANICAL
  21. LANDING GEAR light weight
  22. GUIDANCE a serious challenge in horizontal airspace operations
  23. LIFE SUPPORT when a crew is desired
  24. GROUND STATIONS antennas around the world
  25. COMMUNICATIONS telemetry is our learning tool
  26. SPACEPORTS with safe corridors around populations
  27. FACILITIES for hangars, flight testing, fuels, storage, etc.
  28. TRANSPORTATION LOGISTICS keep on trucking
  29. EMPLOYEE HOUSING  does your test facility have a place for your workforce?

Yes, mundane needs like housing require suppliers too.  One solution might be an RV park near test facilities so crews and families have comforts without long commutes.  Even trucking and fuel shipments need workers that do not have to be permanent staff of the builders.

SPACE INDUSTRY ADVOCATES

I have previously suggested that organizations that promote aerospace and education should be working to connect these different elements of technology and business.  If this collaboration is not formed during the education of our workforce, we may be fumbling when we need to connect our best talent and skills.  Aerospace needs to encourage investment in both ventures and education.

STEPS TO GROWTH: CHIP, CUBE, SMALL, HEAVY, DEEP

If we are ever to reach a more vertical integration we need to make money early in the growth process.  That means that we need to deliver payloads to space now; today.  While I point to heavy launch as the big payoff, other markets are suitable for growth.  There is a viable market for small satellites now and we should consider a unified effort to reach that market.  I believe that orbital debris and heavy constellation traffic may limit satellite launches in the future.  But our horizontal launch dream needs to take that first step to real markets.  Perhaps a joint venture should field a small affordable prototype to get our technologies off the drawing board.  Many basic technology needs can be developed while delivering some actual customer missions.  If we hope to compete with ventures like Blue Origin, Arianne, Spacex, and United Launch Alliance we may have to consider some unity in our efforts as well.

DIVISION REMOVAL; ACQUISITION

A mutually cooperative horizontal integration may transition to benefit both the customer and vendor partners.  The vendor may agree to acquisition as an exit strategy, leading to an increasingly more vertical integration.  Or other firms may consider the option to merge.

Other larger aerospace companies may observe, mentor, or even invest in these efforts.  Progress in the prototypes and small launchers will not discourage interest.  Many may recognize the potential of collaboration.  Since Boeing and Lockheed are already joined as United Launch Alliance, imagine SR-72 technology as a launcher for the Boeing X-37.  Or might Northrop with Scaled Composites conceive a flying wing booster for the Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser?  There are already images of a Stratolauncher-Dream Chaser.  Any of these could be an exit strategy for horizontal launch ventures.  With the right solutions we are confident that horizontal launch will establish a viable market.

VERTICAL TO DEEP SPACE AND DEEP POCKETS

If launch services deliver reliable reusable flights, there are markets growing to pay off their investments.  Space stations may provide fuel, assembly, and repairs for deep space missions.  The moon is a base for materials and manufacturing with some gravity.  If you drop your wrench it will not drift off into space or crush your foot!  Lunar and mining crews may be transported for shore leave to earth.  Mining products may need heavy space trucks to return products to earth.  Now your vertical integration is possible, even if some vendor support is still a regular part of business.  Investors will have profits to turn towards deep space exploration if we meet the needs of low earth orbit first.

STRATEGIC INVESTMENT

We may be in trouble because we need space assets and we are falling behind:

“Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, said on Aug. 8 that the U.S. could take a lesson or two from North Korea about how to “go fast” on weapons development. He is worried about the aging U.S. nuclear arsenal, which is at least one modernization cycle behind Russia and China.

The four-star general says the U.S. military is being outpaced and is not innovating fast enough. Developing new weapons systems costs much more and takes far longer than it did during the Cold War and Space Race.

Hyten wonders when the U.S. stopped being willing to take risks in the pursuit of new technologies and why some critical programs only conduct flight tests every 18 months or so. He says the U.S. government and lawmakers seem to expect that every test must go flawlessly, otherwise programs should come under intense scrutiny. However, the most valuable lessons often come when things do not go as planned.  “We have an unhealthy relationship with failure,” Hyten says.”  http://aviationweek.com/defense/how-north-korea-developed-missiles-so-quickly

BRANSON BRIGHTS

“Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” ~ Richard Branson

Before I was ready to retire, while applying for new jobs, I was told that I was “unemployable”.  They Implied that a few weeks of unemployment caused me to forget all that I had learned in thirty years…a lame excuse.  If you see the renderings I post, remember that those are done with the same Siemens NX CAD tools I used through my career.  Some industries have abused contract workers, engineers, and many others over the years.  “Unemployable” is the new “you’re too old”.  I have a career full of memories of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So while “unemployable” I used my tools to obtain patents and a plan for new space futures.  My new paradigm is “If you can’t join them LICK them!” 

UNHAPPY SAPS

Mr. Branson has a point here.  We need investors to pay people, but money isn’t everything.  Relationships are crucial and we have witnessed some fallout from unhappy workers.  Some may leave the company and compete with their own companies.  Others may even steal your intellectual property if it is not tied down.  Recognizing this, we may want to help the employee reach their dream.  If we encourage them, some employees may appreciate to proving their ideas in their own ventures.  They present ventures that investors can afford, and reduce in-house costs.  They can lower the prime company’s investment costs in the process.  Judgment may indicate advantages to letting go of vertical integration or building it as it best serves the venture.  If we can keep talent we should, but we need not be hostile to helping new ideas either.

LOBBY HOBBY

At one time NASA used a multitude of contractors to build the moon program.  Competitive bidding is supposed to bring the best returns on investment.  If competition is being replaced by campaign contributions, government may not be getting the best products and prices.  We new space ventures should revive the small bidders and ventures that deliver innovation.  Government needs some reforms but private industry can fill a gap during that process. 

APPLICATIONS BEING ACCEPTED NOW

Can we identify incubators or other organizations who can help our sub-contractors and investment that needs to own the future?  Exodus Aerospace is preparing hardware designs, business plans, and funding efforts now.  Consider this a “vertizontal” integration that needs innovation at the organization and funding stages.  A deliberate design for business that identifies major goals and minor elements for staged growth.

Creation by intelligent design serves the evolution of our human advance into the cosmos. 

(How’s that for harmonious contradictions?)

MANY HAPPY RETURN$

12

REPAIR THE DESPAIR

I was really hard on Mars ambitions in my last post.  Well, really I was hard on delusions of government funding for such missions.  Private funding is fine as long as we are good with the high human risk involved.  For those who seek to actually make profits in space there is still hope.  Investors who want to be paid back: you can still have it your way.

TARGET AQUISITION

Before we can take aim we have to be able to see a target.  In business this means there has to be a customer with a need that you can solve.  Previously we suggested that space tourism, suborbital flights, and small satellites are witnessing a lot of competition for small customers.  Meanwhile there are orbital markets that still suffer from high costs.  But there are more markets coming.  Whatever solutions we may propose to deliver have to meet the needs of high end customers.

CUSTOMERS ARE THE KEY TO VISION

We can see real space markets meeting the needs of satellite companies today.  There are profits to be made serving large and small satellite markets today.  Spacex dropped their Falcon 1 and opened the door for many new companies to serve small satellite markets.  These are real, as are the medium and heavy launch needs.

SMALL STEPS LEAD TO GIANT LEAPS

Spacex has an edge in low cost launch services shaping up.  As reusable systems become reliable they have a chance to gain more market share.  New vehicles in this market must deliver those qualities in ways that competition cannot match.  If new technologies are both a marked improvement, and unique enough to be patented, they give investors an exclusive edge.  This may justify some patience to wait out development time and cost.  As there are also some new customers developing, now is the time for launch services to grow.

STATIONS ARE NOT STATIONARY  moving up!

The ISS and future space stations are a growth industry.  There will be research, tourism, and transfer points for specialized deep space missions.  As lunar and Mars ventures grow, they will need fuel and material transfers, and human work crews.  Deep space vehicles may be delivered in sections and assembled on orbit.  This will require higher flight rates, safety, and reliability.  There may be entirely new requirements from what launch vehicles are providing today.

BSS3

AXIOM AND BIGELOW OFFER SPACE STATION CONCEPTS AND DEEP SPACE HABITATS

BIGGER PAYLOADS WILL BECOME DISTANT MISSIONS

We can see many large satellites in service today for communications, weather, and military missions, but these are only the beginning.  Yes, there will be new space stations and tourism, but orbital is only the beginning.  There are real markets beyond earth orbit with real rewards for customer payoff.  Those missions will require more of launch service providers.

CUSTOMERS COURAGEOUS

Who has identified great opportunities in deep space?  We cannot discount the potential of mining operations on asteroids and the moon.  It may be hard to build these companies while launch operations are limited in frequency and functions.  Materials may be used in space or returned to the earth.  This will require moving equipment and mineral products safely in both directions.  We may not be able to work with parachutes or vertical landing when big payloads are coming in.

DSI1

DEEP SPACE INDUSTRIES CONCEPT

LATE NEWS FLASH

The editors of Barrons might know about investment in space.  This article points to high value on the moon, a closer goal than Mars.  And there may be human transportation needs in this too.  Remember: in the gold rush those who sold hardware made good money.

INVISIBLE VISIONS

What will these future launch vehicles look like?  We don’t know yet.  Customer needs will have to conform to the physics of air and space to be delivered.  Our early art work will be compliant to the work of aerodynamics, mass, materials, balance, thrust, and fuel consumption.

16

BASIC TOOLS TOWARDS THE GOAL

Our Exodus Aerospace venture is targeting horizontal launch and landing for multiple advantages not currently being delivered.  Conventional vertical launch uses pure thrust, brute force, and fuel consumption.  It often experiences high gravitational forces, vibrations, and launch delays.  Runway operations offer many choices of facilities and mission orbits.  Air breathing and rocket propulsion on the first stage can deliver stage separation in space to avoid aerodynamic issues.  It can also offer staging at any point if there is already an issue with a booster.  This is also a means of saving payloads that vertical launch would destroy in a launch malfunction.  Vertical launch facilities are often damaged in failure situations, delaying future launches.  Normally both of our stages would offer winged recovery for full reusability.  Our goal of high flight rates can deliver these realities.

SPACE CUSTOMERS:  WHAT DO YOU NEED FROM YOUR LAUNCH PROVIDER BESIDES LOWER COST?

We are proposing new launch technologies, but we need to hear from potential customers.  Our winged shuttle designs can offer more services, as the reliable X-37 vehicles are doing for the Air Force now.  Spacecraft can be tested and returned to base if not functional.  We can retrieve spacecraft, repair, or refuel on orbit.  Mining will require equipment delivery and sample returns.  We want to provide safe low vibration flights with redundant options for payload recovery or retrieval.  Insurance costs are part of our considerations.  Payload integration and servicing should be considered in our early design planning.

Vertical launch and landing is not the only answer, and all current systems still feature throw away stages.  Exodus Aerospace has published a VISION of a horizontal launch prototype.  These still  just illustrate possibilities, but we expect aeronautical forces to be an asset, not a liability.    Spaceports are ready with facilities now.  Reliable and affordable service to orbit is the first step on the space frontier trail.

We don’t want money or commitment, just your ideas for better launch services.  Our mission will be long and expensive, probably falling to bigger manufacturers as it grows.  We will not get there without solving your problems, so aim us at your needs, our road is hard enough!

AEROSPACE MANUFACTURERS AND TECHNOLOGY VENDORS:  WHAT IS NEW FOR OUR CUSTOMERS?

You have the solutions our customers need.  For horizontal launch we are challenged by propulsion, aerodynamics, thermal protection, material strength and mass.  Our challenges are your opportunities, so keep us posted.  Yes, we welcome your input, so contact us with all of your high value contributions.  We have problems to solve, and you may consider us to be customers for those answers.  We even invite you to submit your own articles to our horizontal launch advocacy blog:  WINGS TO SPACE, THE WRIGHT STUFF.   Entries may be submitted to diluther@exodusaerospace.com for publication.  We have already published the vision of competing ventures and past programs that encourage hope.  Whatever points to a practical hope for our space future is welcome here.

RED ALERT

WE ARE NEGLECTING HIGH VALUE CUSTOMERS WITH UNSOLVED PROBLEMS

The cost of launching our growing space markets to low earth orbit is excessive.  We cannot be content to grow tiny technologies and launchers in the face of real needs.  NASA is being guided by a congress that is unable to deliver common sense solutions.  Each Space Launch System rocket equals a Navy warship in size and cost.  A warship serves for 30 years and the SLS will not last 30 minutes before burning up.  The old Saturn drained our economy in the 1970s and this new rocket revisits those technologies and costs.  We will have growing demand for launches at a time when we are facing no real solutions.  Who is planning a more economical future for space launch?

Spacex has delivered a few booster recoveries, but has abandoned vertical capsule landings.  Second stage recovery is still being developed.  The personal commitment and investment of Elon Musk has challenged traditional launch providers and pricing.  It remains to be seen if this will be reliable enough to make long-term cost reduction in earth orbit services.  There may still be a valid case for horizontal launch and recovery.  We witness the safe operations of the X-37 over several years as evidence for horizontal recovery from orbit.  Now we may want to consider air-breathing engine economies and booster recovery in future systems.

HORIZONTAL LAUNCH HAS BEEN RE-EXAMINED FOR DECADES AND IT KEEPS COMING BACK.

Several variations are being built now, and they continue to evolve.  We still see low performance lifter aircraft and expendable stages that cut into payloads and reusability.  A few propose to add rocket propulsion or exotic air-breathing engines to the booster.  Exotic solutions make investment risky at best.  There is still a need to increase the payload mass fraction to make these deliver real customer markets.

Exodus Aerospace published an article about possible technologies for horizontal launch.  As a “paper airplane” we examined multiple aerodynamic and propulsion ideas.  Our VISION article may be a “snowball in hell” but it has at least drawn some interest from the aerospace world.

LINK14

There are still more good and bad ideas out there which we did not know to write about.  There are young innovators and vendors who may not get an audience and still have value to deliver.  I am not a candidate to be the next Elon Musk at 70 years of age.  Not many young people are really able to cover both business and technology either.  Me, I am more likely to be the next Wornout Von Braun.  So what can we do to move innovation to evaluation and manufacturing?

SNOWBALL HELL: newspace

The landscape is littered with broken space companies.  Good ideas and good investments get buried with them along the way.  Without a billionaire that knows both business and technology it is a harsh environment.  Howard Hughes made contributions to aviation, but he was not the only source of hope.  Others brought contributions even without all his wealth.

X SURPRISE: do we carrot all?

The Xprize was a carrot to inspire innovation for space tourism.  The design was to carry 3 people to space but now it sits in a museum.  It might have been hard to get Space Ship One certified for commercial flight, but Space Ship Two is really late now.  Now suborbital operations are looking really lean to investment interests.  We really need to deliver affordable services to low earth orbit.  Customers with big payloads are the real hope for investment.  Bases for mining and colonies are only dreaming until they can get affordable orbital services.

STINKUBATORS: me me me

A nation as divided as this needs no more barriers than our elected officials provide.  Services offering to help small teams grow big dreams are often exclusive to the interests of one state.  Wake up people; innovation is everywhere and we cannot all afford to live where you have driven the cost of business and living to stellar limits.  Our ventures are often virtual, even international.  Open your mind or close your wallet, because they will both be empty.

DINKUBATORS: wee wee wee

Oh great, we have experts who want to teach our tech guys how to start and run a business.  Take a clue from Orbital Sciences: even a business student is better at business than an engineer.  A small group of tech guys can deliver small technologies, but they still need a ride to orbit.  Who is working on better launch technologies?  We cannot proceed on wee tiny launchers if you want a big space future.

TECH WRECKS: silly con valley

What works for “tech” may not work for launcher evolution.  Silicon Valley has been launching startups that spin-off some great innovation and make profit for investors.  Compared to launch development these tech ventures are low-cost and fast on returns.  To limit space ventures to satellites, sensors, and software leaves us with little no innovation in heavy launchers.  The big companies do contribute, but Spacex is demonstrating what can happen with an agile effort.  Still, vertical launch and landing is not the only tool.

New space innovation draws some pretty dedicated people, as we saw at Xcor.  They fought to keep funding moving ahead of development, and still went on to yet another space venture.  There are people out there making the technology on a shoe string and they are not silly people.  But developing launch technology is as far from paying customers as it is from orbit.  Incubators know they can’t launch vehicles projects with such huge costs.  To expect “space” incubators to make a difference is how we con ourselves into a silly valley. 

BEST OF THE BEST:  what test?

The typical aerospace career needs a good education and a big payroll employer.  They want the best of the best…just like in the movie “Men in Black”.  And like the movie, there are other kinds of smart.  Henry Ford had no degrees but he had mechanical aptitude and common sense.  There is more than one kind of talent, technical, marketing, management, manufacturing, and much more.  No one does a single handed launcher program.  In some cases the big aero employee may decide to launch a small space venture of their own.  They may bring experience from any of a number of great programs while leaving the political issues behind.  These new ventures are free to build on good experiences and add new solutions.  But scratching out SBIR offerings does not always pave the way to revolutionary solutions.

NO RIDE$: can’t get there

So the cube satellite market will have a few small launchers eventually.  But the big customers who pay well are still paying top dollar for reliable rides.  All the dreams about space stations, moon bases, and mining are not seeing the high flight rate needed for their growth.

SUPERSIZE ME: di$po$able

For bigger payloads vertical launch works reliably, and vertical recovery is getting better.  But disposable stages are still costing customers.  There are still disposable stages on Falcon 9, Stratolaunch, Virgin Orbital, and every other launch system out there now.  We need to break through to greater cost reductions.

BOLDLY NO: no no no your boat

If you are willing to “boldly go” you will not find many willing to boldly go with you.  I would expect all the funding sources to turn you down for a half-billion dollar venture.  They should say no because they are responsible to their investors to deliver customer payoff in short order.  Just walking up to their door with technology will not get them to the payoff in a short time.

NO BUCKS: or rogers

Big aerospace is attempting to innovate as they are threatened by reusable launch economies.  They too need big capital to move ahead and they are motivated.  But identification and validation of solutions is complicated and no one venture has all the assets.  Government is often entangled in political pork barrels and obsolete ideas so they often miss the real needs.  We need affordable innovation, research and development.

HIGH PLANES: customer reach

These investments are challenged by long 10-20 year development periods before customers are buying launches.  It takes a real hero to ante up for a new launch vehicle, and we need them now.  Those investors need to see shorter times and better solutions before they will spend money.  They need to see solid business and technical plans moving in productive organizations.

MULTIPLE DIVISIONS: tech>biz>bux>sux

Perhaps we need to break the problem down a bit.  Innovation may progress though technology ideas to business planning, funding, marketing, fabrication, testing, and manufacturing.  No one has all the assets to deliver fast results on a budget for launchers.  But we need the big solutions so we may need to take a lesson from our vehicle designs: stages work.

STAGES:  pieces of the whole

As with our vehicles, we need boosters and orbiters; groups dedicated to getting things off the ground and refining the best ideas to fruition.  With a potential for many ideas and opinions, a virtual meeting place may allow financial and technical innovation to develop.  Initially I can offer our “OrionCraft Space Incubation” page, a Facebook group, as a starting point.  That is merely a place to invite conversation and target a better set of tools.  To establish a web site with tools for innovation will identify some early ideas that boosters can get behind.

PAPER AIRPLANE: shoot it down, build it back up

When an “imagineer” proposes a vehicle technology or a business plan, we don’t know if it will fly.  But we need to encourage all the creative marketing and technology that we can find.  Rather than ignoring or crushing ideas we should have a path of evaluation available.  Actual analysis will identify value for real markets.  When you solve customer problems the business plans will find a way to meet their needs.

MANY CHEFS:  vendors ready

We have professional organizations, schools, vendor companies, individuals, space and aviation organizations with contributions to offer.  There are business students looking at space investment, and space incubators all over the world.  We should have recruiting services bringing people with business and technical skills together.  Common interests may be identified within these groups to facilitate collaboration.  There are already some collaborations in place that may be able to rise to meet the task.

DESSERT DESERT: not without sugar

There has to be rewards for efforts that may save our industry.  We will be in a very dry place without some form of payment for contributions.  We need a regular system that rewards innovation with both recognition and monetary compensation.  There are business plan competitions now, but is there an incentive to revolutionize launch services for the growing future markets?  Is there an “X” Prize to provoke affordable avenues to LEO? 

THINKUBATORS: a good example of unity

The Rocky Mountain Incubation Collaborative is a coalition of incubation sites in the Western United States.  They share resources to help incubation efforts in several states.  If this kind of cooperation grows we may be able to help both small and large venture efforts.  We can incubate every type and size of service this industry needs to deliver a real space future.

RECIPIE FOR SUCCESS:  meet all the needs

To provide for future needs we need to identify stages for growth and development.  Preferences for technologies can be grouped and provided with tools for their mission.  Trade studies can evaluate proposals to meet financial and technical needs.  Potential can be paired with interested participants.

LIGHT THE FUSE…contact booster groups

This article is the foundation that we will share by contacting potential supporters.  Industry, education, vendors, aerospace organizations and social media are all avenues to spread the word.  This is an opportunity for hands on contribution with real assets to realization.  Are we ready to boldly go?

 

an old article of ours:

WE CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE EITHER

FAR6

 

 

 

HIGH HOTL HOPE

SPACE IS HARD….AND HORIZONTAL LAUNCH IS FOR THE HARD HEADED.

Horizontal launch proposals have been examined and abandoned for decades.  Our lust for reusable space launch systems drives us to near madness.  Witness the parade of early concepts that became the space shuttle.  Oh Lord, the ungainly piggy back monsters and flights of fantasy that generated!  Even in vertical launch these became no better than the ill-fated reality of our shuttle’s flight history.  They never realized the economies hoped for.  But they nearly enticed the Soviets into making the same mistakes.

it is no surprise that responsible aerospace manufacturers spent a lot of money on concepts for horizontal launch.  We published an article about the Rockwell Star-Raker, a huge fleet of huge aircraft that needed exotic engines for single stage to orbit missions.  We still can’t do that, so why do we still see these proposals?  With smaller vehicles there might be some chance for these to replace satellites for the military.  As such DARPA and the Air Force are still paying for new ideas.

In 2010 NASA was beating the drums for a maglev rail launch called HOTL.  Where did it go?  Even Google can’t find it now without trying to direct me to a hotel.

MAG1

In 1988 Boeing got a patent on a 2 stage space plane that looks nice.  It misses some opportunities for efficiency but they clearly spent some time on engineering and lawyers.  It would use hardware from the shuttle so some parts are already designed.  Is it that hard to get investors in good hardware?

BOEING 5

In 2004 the Quicksat vehicle was presented with an X-37 type upper stage on a hypersonic wedge booster.  The Air Force worked with Spaceworks for this study.

QUICKSAT1

In 2010 the Air force went to Spaceworks again to look at using the Sabre engine concept for a small launcher.  Payload, takeoff weight, and development costs would be really massive.  But the payoff may also be pretty big.

ASC1

At the Same time we see that Boeing is also watching hypersonic launch concepts.  We just don’t know how many new propulsion and airframe ideas are being explored at this time.

BOEING 1

SCRAM-A-RAM-A-DING-DONG-A-DELTA WINGEY THINGEY!

Meanwhile in civilian commercial space another entry is coming from Triton Systems as the Stellar-J.  this is a low speed low temperature design but rockets give the first stage an extra kick.

LVC6

Bristol Spaceplanes have offered orbital variants for some time now.  They may finally get some support from the revived interest in space from the British government.

BRISTOL 4

And of course I have to confess to my own slightly weird in-line staging proposal.  We at Exodus Aerospace  may have to leave a lot of luxury items behind to get the mass low enough for profit.  But like everyone else we will join the hunger games for the high goal…wings to space; the Wright stuff.

E18

All of this points out how much is invested in reaching for the “holy grail” of cheap access to space.  If Spacex does reuse two stages or more on a regular basis, other launch providers have to find some solution to compete.  Statistically it might seem that vertical landing may not have success all the time.  There are a lot of complex operations involved.  Wings will continue to appeal to us a  means of recovery.  So being hard headed may yet pay off. 

BACK TO THE FUTURE

PROBLEMS, PROBLEMS…THEN A BLAST FROM THE PAST

On our Exodus Aerospace blog I offered a design that emulates lifting body designs of the past.  The flat fat glider is short of length and fuel volume.  It also needs a heavy fairing to attach it to the booster.  So here I want to take a look at our history of winged warriors to see what we are learning.  It may have roots in the Dyna-Soar, but the first flight demonstration was the shuttle.

This led to several light thermal protection technologies and other lessons we can still use.  “The Shuttle flies at a high angle of attack during re-entry to generate drag to dissipate speed. It executes hypersonic “S-turn” maneuvers to kill off speed during re-entry.”  This allows the craft to bleed off speed and keep the nose high and out of the worst heating.

This illustration shows the flat bottom as a heat shield, ejecting hotter plasma away from the sides.  The delta wing is good for landings, but appears to mask air flow to the rudder.  That may explain why it is such a tall vertical surface.

shut4

After the shuttle design, a proposal suggested a “fly back satellite” that would stage on a Pegasus.  Look; in-line staging is not so strange after all!  This was to make flight, but as a much larger vehicle; the Boeing X-37.

flyback9

Now a comparison of shuttle designs reveals that the wing is moved forward.  That gives the full flying tails a great supply of air flow, and makes it easier to raise the nose for a high angle of attack.

shut7

It also seems to have earned a promotion from NASA to the US Air Force.  This mini-shuttle has been serving for honor with missions up to two years in duration.  No crashes, and no pilot needed for total customer satisfaction in years of service.

x-37-14

x-37-3

Now this illustrates high angle of attack, and thermal distribution, possibly without all those “S” turn maneuvers.

prime-3b

Other reentry experiments created the Prime Lifting Body which survived a fiery reentry as shown here.  Notice burns flowing over the topsides.  This design continued with the X-38 crew recovery vehicle and the present Sierra Nevada Dreamchaser.

x-38m

This raised the height and volume of the design to accommodate crew members and propulsion.  The “duck tail” and rounded bottom cause the vehicle to gravitate to a nose high attitude.  Body flaps can push the vehicle nose down for level flight at lower altitudes.

x-38g

This is designed to fall well more than to fly well.  A reentry vehicle is a meteorite first, and an airplane second. All’s well that falls well!  It delivers the crew to a designated landing area with some degree of control and thermal survival.  There may not be all the elegant control of other aircraft with limited control surfaces.  There may not be elaborate landing capability here.

x-38p

The X-38 was designed to land with a glide type parachute, which at least takes you to dry land instead of an ocean landing.

dream-21

The Dreamchaser is a slightly wider, flatter shape, with propulsion on each side of the central pressure vessel.  The bottom is still flat, and may be a bit wider.  Dreamchaser may enjoy an air cushion known as ground effect on landing.  This vehicle can now make a landing with conventional landing gear.

dream-5

mm34

My orbiter may be too narrow in front while attempting to be sleek enough for supersonic horizontal ascent.  It also lost a lot of internal volume with that heavy fairing adapter.  It would rely on the “duck tail” and curvature to reach a high angle of attack.

ss1a1

Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites may have considered body flaps to do this at first.

ss1a

For a suborbital reentry, speeds are low enough to allow an extreme “jack knife” that would be hostile at hypersonic speeds.  Orbital reentry may be up around 17,000 mph!

re10

Our suborbital design would be less extreme, but may suggest solutions that we can use in the higher speeds of orbital reentry.  This too is very flat for atmospheric flight, but we may be able to thicken that for more volume.  This is a long thin shape like the X-37, but lacks the feature of central wings.  It could be hard to get the nose up.  But there are other proposals with little or no wing surfaces.

hat1

This is based on Japanese designs and is again a nice flat airfoil.  It looks like a wingless example of Burnelli’s lifting fuselage; a low aspect ratio flying wing.  It is a little sleeker than Dreamchaser, but may have less volume without all that length.

esa-lb2

Well, if you don’t mind parachutes, this ESA design will guide you to the right landing area with good volume and minimal parasite mass or drag.  It is not elaborate on control surfaces for pitch, roll and yaw though!

soy3

Some thought about parachutes belong to the Soyuz recovery system.  This parachute landing on the ground would be bumpy without the last minute retro rocket trick.  There is one thing to remember about parachute recovery though…

soy5

Where we live in Wyoming, the wind can quickly relocate you to Kansas.  Oh, this IS Kansas Toto!

fal2

No good reentry study should overlook this miracle of technology.  Seriously, we do have a use for this after we consider one little issue…

fal1

If your trajectory is not high enough to severely burn things up on reentry, you still need low winds, a steady deck, and a lot of luck.  Reliability engineers use statistical math to factor all the risk of multiple operations.  This one poses a few challenges.  And you still have to carry landing gear and extra fuel!

img_6778c

Our rocket man in Wyoming (Bob Steinke) does this with a wider, more stable base.  Laramie rose has made several flights under challenging stability conditions.  That reminds me of an aircraft that I worked on in the past…

vl1

Now THIS is a stable base for a vertical landing!  Actually, this can even be done transitioning from forward motion to a dead stop.  Even airliners have thrust reversers for braking.  Trust me to think about laying down on the job!

vl3

Actually this is yet another ideas stolen from the British.  Talk about a stable base…a four point landing!  The Harrier landing, Concorde wing, and Peroxide fuels were all pioneered by the British.  But then so is the art of drafting; developed to build ships to meet the Spanish Armada.  Let me know if you see any redcoats coming to reclaim their stuff!

Since we are building an orbiter, it is already equipped with thrusters pointing in every direction.  In a conversation with a vertical launch builder, we found no barriers to bringing a winged orbiter into ground effect, slowing, and setting gently onto skids.  We don’t even need wheels if we can counter crosswinds and keep a straight line down the runway.  Fewer mass parasites and another simplification.  With two stages we can use air breathing propulsion and still leave the parasite engines and gear behind.  More for the payload customer and redundant recovery options for the insurers.

WHAT WIL IT LOOK LIKE?  ??

sp1

SO; NOW A SNEAK PEEK AT THE NEXT GENERATION.  No mid stage, one large volume orbiter with a deep flat shape.  These are preliminary forms that will be changing as we reflect needs for structures and propulsion.

sp3

Now we can target the optimum direction for real solutions in horizontal launch.  Get ready to watch this evolve on our next Exodus Aerospace blog.

PAPER AIRPLANE

exo-logo-9

THIS HORIZONTAL LAUNCH FORUM INVITES VENDOR’S AND RESEARCHER’S SOLUTIONS.  If you have products or technologies that can advance horizontal launch we invite you to publish here.  If you can help us build our business case we welcome partners to the Exodus Aerospace team as well.  Here is our mission and the first steps towards our goal.  Contact information is shown below.

HOW DO WE SEE THE FUTURE OF SPACE LAUNCH?  LOOKING AHEAD  Not by repeating the mistakes of the past.  On the other hand, there are some ideas from the past that good engineers worked hard on that may still have some value.  Previous posts have illustrated some of the directions that Exodus Aerospace is exploring.  Of course every image is history as soon as it is recorded.  I often don’t like my own ideas, so much of our publications are already obsolete.

Instead of focusing on small markets we want to take a look at a possible future with bigger markets.  What could the future of heavy launch and manned spaceflight look like?  We who have hoped to see a horizontal launch solution know this has been rejected for decades.  Space is hard and horizontal is harder.  So any consideration of horizontal launch needs more than a few good technologies to move ahead.  In this article we will introduce a few notions that are shaping our investigation.

Several vehicles demonstrated values that we hope to employ for our mission.  HEROES:

Blended wing bodies offer high lift and low drag.  For a booster lifting a heavy fuel load from the runway this can be an asset.  They also offer internal volume and thick sections for light structures.  These are good goals for a booster.

bwb4

The Concorde has a wing that generated a vortex which increased lift during takeoff.  It was also a thin airfoil with low drag at high speeds.

con3

The X-37 is a proven reusable orbiter that offers on orbit services as a long term workhorse.  It has operated as a fly-back satellite and a mini-space station for years.

x-37-18

Other fly back orbiters include the Prime lifting body, the X-38, and Dreamchaser.  These all indicate potential for orbiters that can perform repairs, refueling, and payload de-orbiting roles.  They also need a better booster that is not penalized by a massive payload fairing.

prime-3b

Now we consider bonding a good orbiter to a booster with air breathing efficiency.  Blended wing bodies can be blunt and hard to move at supersonic speeds.  So our orbiter can help as a smaller “nose cone” if it is not too blunt.  Some compromise may deliver a good combination.

SEEDS OF THE FUTURE:  NEW DESIGNS.  So we set out to bring these features into one system.  There were a LOT of our own models tried and rejected along this path!

OUR FIRST CONCORDE STYLE WING MODEL.  This is a very thin airfoil that will be blended into thicker airfoils at the center body.

con5

DIVIDED INTO BOOSTER, FAIRING, AND ORBITER.  The first stage is sized for a large fuel load so the upper stage is not a massive payload.  A disposable fairing is a small compromise to maintain a good Concorde style vortex at liftoff.

mld60

TWO BIG EJECTOR RAMJETS?  We see a messy inlet if the engine is thrusting on the centerline of mass.  Now we need to seek a better balance if we want landing gear under there!

mld90

ENGINES SPREAD ACROSS THE AIRFOIL.  Ejector ramjets improve the efficiency of rocket engines during atmospheric flight.  These are arrayed on the bottom with a slight bend like Sabre engines to meet the incoming ram air at a high angle of attack.  This craft is designed for the high angle needed to climb quickly.  Their thrust is angled slightly down to compensate for being below the center of mass.  On the top row are pure rocket engines that join the lower engines only at higher altitudes.  At that point a form of aerospike may also contribute to the mission.

mld116

ENGINES…NEW OPPORTUNITIES AND NEW CHALLENGES.  Horizontal launch can use atmospheric oxygen to reduce the amount of oxidizer carried in tanks onboard.  This can reduce the mass of the vehicle and the cost of fuels.  We can use conventional turbine engines to help during development of advanced engines.

AIR BREATHING PROPULSION CANDIDATES.

We welcome propulsion solutions and vendors may have answers we haven’t heard from yet.  Here are some candidates that we know of.  Some have been built and tested, while others are still in development.  Perhaps we can help with that by offering an airframe with proven propulsion to support testing in flight conditions.

EJECTOR RAMJETS.  These begin operation as a rocket engine and benefit from fuel injection as ram air speed increases.  Operation as a ramjet saves fuel but ends when the atmosphere thins out.  At that point function returns to pure rocket operation with onboard oxidizer.

gtx1

SABRE ENGINES.  This British engine condenses atmospheric oxygen into liquid oxygen in the atmosphere.  Again the loss of atmosphere moves the engine back into rocket operation.  A small version is being developed for use on prototypes of this size.  If we offer turbines in the outboard nacelles our airframe may aid the development of advanced propulsion.

scm4

New engine types may help accelerate up to orbital velocities or they may go fast enough to burn the wings off.  Again a good compromise may be high supersonic speeds in the lower atmosphere.  Our orbiter is protected for reentry heating so the thin wings of the booster may the most vulnerable to ascent heating.  At this point vendors may have some resources to advance the cause.

VENDOR INPUT WELCOME; ADVERTISE SOLUTIONS HERE ON “WINGS TO SPACE”.  Some needs and possible solutions:

PROPULSION  as reported above, innovation is needed.  We may seek materials and methods to develop engines locally, or work with vendors, researchers, or universities.

FUEL TANKS  for cryogenics we seek ways to fit in low profiles.  The X-33 and the Rockwell StarRaker suggested flat sided tanks but we are not sure if that goal can be delivered.

FUEL BLADDERS for jet fuel and HTP we can use fuel bladders in odd shaped locations.

STRUCTURES new materials and methods could shave a lot of weight compared to older methods.  Additive manufacturing, ceramic composites and other materials are all offering opportunities.  We need to learn more about the mass properties and strength of new materials.

THERMAL PROTECTION.  Ceramic composites, carbon foam, and other materials are out there.  If we can get data, we can do trade studies that may reveal needed solutions.

GUIDANCE AND NAVIGATION.  This will be a big ticket item when real paychecks are moving.  It may involve much bigger contractors than this little venture, but investors need a vision of value.  For now our paper airplane welcomes hints about the size and mass needs for such a system.  Antennas and ground support are supported by vendors already serving vertical launch.  We would like to have an option for human pilots to augment any guidance failures.  UAV type systems may be applicable where a vehicle might be returned safely to the runway.  Unmanned systems are becoming common, but this offers special challenges so redundancy is needed.

SECURITY AND SAFETY.  Ground and flight operations present many opportunities for failures.  Being able to separate stages may salvage payloads from booster anomalies. Flight operations for unmanned systems will require special clearances from the FAA and spaceports.  Boeing and the Air force have operated the X-37 safely for years, so the technology is out there.  Solution providers are welcome to consider the challenges and the solutions.

This illustrates some of the goals and early ideas that frame our present design direction.  You may follow each stage of our exploration as these designs progress.  We are still early in the process, and a lot of this will be done by the SWAG formula.  (Scientific Wild Ass Guess)  A paper airplane invites criticism which may be the best engineering available.  Identifying the dangers in time to avoid them is valuable, and wisdom welcomes a good warning.  Bad ideas are welcome, as we need to find new solutions.  We have time to fix our mistakes, but we will never grow if we don’t try new ideas.  Investment should always seek products that the competition doesn’t own.

This study is preliminary and we seek to identify goals that can be validated in more affordable prototypes.  The future vision is a target that motivates development of answers we need to guide our future.  As such a paper airplane provokes thought, evaluation, and the first steps to validation.  Tools that begin basic measurements include computer aided design models and engineering analysis software.  We may identify a lot of hope when we step out in faith.

This concludes the first steps of the adventure.  But there are many steps ahead of us, and each one is a step towards the stars.  You can follow our journey on the following links to our activities.  Item one will report on the next design steps of Exodus Aerospace.  Item two is a Facebook group where all may comment, suggest, or criticize.  Item three is this blog, an advocacy group for horizontal launch and the technology to achieve it.

  1. EXODUS AEROSPACE, Introducing a unique horizontal launch technology is our development blog. Here you can track our initial concepts and consider new ideas.  We have described a small vehicle for suborbital development in past posts.  Before we propose prototypes with little market value, we want to look at a goal with much bigger payoffs.  That has to be a reasonable future that is reachable and affordable as well.

The Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype (LEAP) will be a radical look at the future of space.  Jeff Greason once called my patent “weird”.  It occurred to me that Burt Rutan might say that it isn’t weird enough.  Together we can fix that!  We don’t care if your ideas come from Kerbal Space, X-Plane, Star Trek, universities, the AIAA, or NASA…bring them all!  The Air Force is starting a “Space Consortium” of small and large ventures.  We may contribute, but we don’t have to wait for the government to get organized.  (Is that even possible?)  We are free to launch our own consortium now.

  1. ORIONCRAFT AEROSPACE INCUBATION is our Facebook group where you can join in. You may participate as fans or jump in to join the pit crew.  Some day we may have some deep secrets that require a non-disclosure agreement.  But most of our data is new combinations of old ideas or patented so the world already knows a lot of this.  It is the new combinations that may rock the launch industry.  On Facebook you can chime in with ideas, questions, chat or just watch the fun.
  1. WINGS TO SPACE…THE WRIGHT STUFF is for the serious writers and new products. If you want to write a promotion of your horizontal launch technologies or products this advocates all avenues to horizontal launch.  We have already published articles about Triton Systems Stellar-J and Bristol Spaceplanes among others.  There are also historical articles about designs from the past.  Elements of all of these may open doors to the future.

LOOK OVER THESE LINKS AND CONSIDER WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER.  Consider what we may have to offer as well.  If we plant the right seeds, you may be a founder, an employee, or a key product vendor.  The real key is desire.  If you want a better future you can build it.  This is an open invitation to innovation so abandon you doubts and fears and step out.  ARE YOU READY TO BOLDLY GO?

KEY EXODUS AEROSPACE TEAM PARTNERS, AND ADVISORS:

Ragole, Michael                              https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-ragole-857330

Mindt, Michael                               https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelmindt

Luther, David                                   https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-luther-1ba93bb5

Petterson, Bob                                 https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-petterson-50042534

Schulze, Ken                                      https://www.linkedin.com/in/kenschulze

Peach, Robert                                    https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-peach-a8156ba

 

DAVID I. LUTHER

diluther@exodusaerospace.com

EXODUS AEROSPACE LLC

905 15TH ST WHEATLAND, WY 82201

PHONE 307-331-6448

7of9

NEW MOON

NEW MOON;  An open letter to the 2016 campaign leaders

Our space program was born to meet the challenges of the cold war, and these times are no less demanding.  When John Kennedy launched us towards the Moon landings we needed to be strong in a world of uncertainty.  Over time we established leadership in space, but we also learned the cost of big space programs.  The big Saturn rockets were abandoned to develop more affordable systems.

The space shuttles promised more than they could deliver in cost savings.  They also delivered some lessons about safety that provoked some retreat back to older designs.  Unfortunately the “new” Space Launch System has retreated back into very expensive ideas.  Consider the cost of one SLS launch vehicle compared to one Navy warship:

SLS1

We stopped going to the moon because we couldn’t afford to continue those missions.  This new program didn’t even have a mission when it was conceived.  It is actually a Republican jobs program; a pork barrel mission.  Now they fantasize about going back to the Moon or even to Mars.  The Moon may actually offer some real value, but Mars is a pointless mission when our economy needs a major overhaul.  Instead we are about to be keelhauled into a massive debt.

We have private ventures ready and willing to provide vastly cheaper launch services, and even to develop the resources of space.  We can deliver the same mass to orbit with two smaller vehicles for less than one monster rocket.  Spacex, Blue Origin, and others are already developing economical systems that have already been flown.  Deep space missions and heavy launch do not require a massive deficit.  Even leaders at NASA dislike what they are being forced to do with the SLS.

More importantly we have many smaller missions being flown on Russian boosters and rocket engines.  We cannot now launch defense missions on American rockets without paying the Russians…except for Spacex boosters.  We are finally paying American firms to develop new rocket engines.  But we still pay the Russians to carry American astronauts on the same old booster that launched the Sputnik in 1957.  Only commercial launch providers can fix this problem because NASA has no small launchers except these new commercial providers.

Just compare these proposed heavy lifters cost to cargo ratio.  The Falcon Heavy is due to fly this year, and the SLS…who knows when?

10700397_564928870277973_6918935689481825476_o

What do commercial launchers offer to reduce costs?  Spacex has already landed and re-fired a booster.  Blue Origin has flown and re-flown the same booster.  This means a difference between throwing away a 60 million dollar booster or just refurbishing it for under one million dollars.  Potentially 59 million dollars less per launch in savings, even if you save only one stage.  Remember the Space Launch System is all expendable, except possibly the crew capsule.  We can use multiple small launchers at far greater savings than any expendable system.

The Verge:  SpaceX’s reusable rockets will make space cheaper — but how much? Dec 24, 2015

This means that space can become a profitable business instead of a deficit maker.  There are already a number of ventures protecting the environment and reaching for mineral wealth in space.  The Air Force contracts launch services, couldn’t NASA do the same?  They don’t need to be in the launch vehicle business.  Private companies with competitive bidding do a better job of delivering vehicle designs.  The best part is that jobs in space programs must stay in the United States because of International Traffic in Arms Regulations .   Space is the one industry that can be a jobs program for American workers only.

Private companies have offered solutions to space launch and even for clean energy in the past.  Rockwell International proposed a huge project that would at least deliver solar energy from space.  Elements of that old concept are still valuable to consider for more economical systems today.  The idea of flying vehicles from a spaceport runway is still being considered today.  With new materials, propulsion, and methods these ideas may yet be built and flown.  Wings to Space: the Wright Stuff is a blog that publishes concepts from several groups seeking horizontal launch technologies.  If saving one stage delivers big savings, what could be gained by making the whole vehicle reusable?  Only private ventures are considering this, but they need the money being wasted on the “Senate Launch System”.

At this time only two spacecraft have gone to orbit, been refurbished, and returned to orbit.  The only reusable orbiters were the shuttle and the Air Force X-37.  Lessons from the shuttle helped with the X-37, which has orbited for as long as two years.  That is a proven system now.  As such it is reasonable to consider winged vehicles potentially superior for comfort, safety, and demonstrated long life.  We welcome every step that proves that economy is possible in space operations.  We also welcome the work being done by new groups for even greater economy and safety.

Space is not just a science fiction fantasy, it is a viable marketplace if we leave the mistakes of the past behind.  We have already seen reusable vehicles flown and re-flown for years now.  When we had surplus missiles to throw away that made sense.  But building a huge new throw away rocket makes nothing more than a bonfire of cash.  We urge the current campaign leaders to take a leadership role in the only growth segment in America’s economy.  Yes, ask these companies to pay taxes, but encourage them to give us a future in the process.

David Luther,  Exodus Aerospace

ENJOY VISIONS OF A SPACE FUTURE:

KSC4

FUTURE VISIONS TAKING OFF

L2b

RIDING THE WAVE

L11

ASCENDING IN STAGES

L21

BOOSTER RETURNS TO BASE

L19

OUT OF DARKNESS

L18

INTO A NEW DAWN

L32

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

L46

BACK IN THE NEST

BLAST FROM THE PAST; a few good ideas may return to the light of day…

Rockwell International Star-Raker proposal

King of the Wings into space concepts.
by Kelly Starks

Star-Raker_747_Comparison

Figure 1: Rockwell’s Star-Raker in comparison with a Boeing 747

If you’re going to talk about low cost access to space, and winged Horizontal Takeoff-Horizontal Landing (HTHL), Single-Stage to Orbit (SSTO) vehicles, you need to talk about Rockwell’s Star-Raker, proposed to the Department of Energy (DOE) in the late 1970’s, in response to the DOE study of the Space Solar-Powered Satellite (SSPS) concept. Star-Raker offered a massive change in capacity and price from what had been considered, and turned the whole SSPS concept on its ear – which infuriated some of the advocacy groups for the concept.

Star-Raker-SPS_Orbit

GPN-2003-00108

Figure 2: Space Solar-Powered Satellites (SSPS)

SSPS was a very popular concept among space advocacy groups in the 1970’s, involving building huge solar collector farms in orbit. Aside from the perceived benefits of solar power arrays placed in orbit (no weather or day/night cycles, and more intense sunlight means a daily average of roughly twenty times as much power gathered per collector) and the huge interest in a non-oil-based power supply during the oil crisis era (when people were being assured by President Jimmy Carter that all oil and gas supplies in the world would be exhausted by the 1990’s), the vast construction effort to build them was seen by space advocates (most especially the L-5 Society) as “the key” to founding major industrial colonies in space. Since the calculated margin cost per pound to orbit with Shuttles (the assumed lowest possible launch technology possible in the day) was roughly $200+ (in ‘70’s dollars), and the target 300 solar power platforms would weigh 10,000 tons each, it would be utterly unaffordable to build these platforms from three million tons of components shipped up to orbit, for $1.2 trillion in 70’s dollars. So space advocates assumed you’d need to colonize space and build with resources in space. However, they had completely misjudged the nature of launch costs.

The specific SSPS proposals varied, but a common assumption was a fleet of three hundred, 10,000-ton SSPS platforms in orbit. This three million ton lift requirement was clearly vastly beyond the capability of any launch system available or in development. It would, for example, require 100,000 flights of the space shuttle which, given the existing capacities of the launch pads and best case assumptions of the shuttles, could take centuries to do. Ignoring that, the space shuttles’ margin cost of roughly $200+ per pound to orbit would mean over $1.2 trillion in launch costs in late 1970’s dollars to lift everything. This was clearly infeasible. (Note: the Space Colonization efforts required launch rates and capacities well beyond the capacity of the shuttle systems as well.)

We need a bigger launch capacity

Between 1978 and 1986, the U.S. Congress authorized the Department of Energy (DoE) and NASA to jointly investigate the SSPS concept. All of the resulting designs by these organizations and advocates required masses to orbit far beyond the capacity of any launcher systems that were operational or in development; but the requirements weren’t beyond the capacity of launcher systems that could be developed, or were being researched. Also, launch costs are largely driven by economies of scale, or rather the total lack of them, in launch markets then, and now. The very scale of tonnage the SSPS programs would need to launch into orbit — estimates were at least a thousand tons per day, half the total in human history to date, and roughly that of the entire 30 year shuttle program — would unavoidably drive costs far down. So, clearly, heavy or super heavy lift capacity craft capable of extremely high flight rates were needed.

Launch vehicle manufacturers were invited to submit suitable design concepts. Three of the baseline concepts used for the SSPS studies were:

  • Boeing’s “Reusable Aerodynamic Space Vehicle” (RASV), an all-rocket HTHL SSTO winged craft launched at high speed from a magnetic levitation trackway, boosted to orbit with rockets fueled solely from internal fuel tanks, and glided back to a runway like a shuttle orbiter.
  • Boeing’s rocket-powered VTVL TSTO (400 ton cargo capacity) configuration
  • Rockwell International’s “Star-Raker” Turbo-ramjet/rocket HTHL SSTO (100 ton cargo capacity).

Star-Raker_Orbit

Figure 3:  North American Rockwell Star-Raker in Orbit

The Rockwell Star-Raker was given some preference by the Department of Energy since it seemed better suited for high flight rates. Offering 100 tons of cargo per flight in a 20 x 20 x 141.5 ft cargo bay, a fleet of 22 Star-Rakers was considered quite capable of lifting the target 1,600 tons per day,  with a projected cost to orbit in 1978 dollars of $22-$33 per kilogram, or $10-$15 per pound – ($36 to $55 a pound in 2014 dollars).

Rockwell had been researching the Star-Raker design with Marshall Space Flight Center since the 1960’s, and by the late 1970’s were confident that new materials technologies, and a light pressure-stiffened wet-wing design (similar to the pressure-stiffened Atlas booster used to carry Mercury flights into orbit), would make HTHL SSTO possible. The lower wing loading of the design would make surface temperatures during re-entry several hundred degrees lower than the Space Shuttle. The turbo-ramjet engines would allow the Star-Raker to carry double the payload than Boeing’s all-rocket-based horizontal take off Reusable Aerodynamic Space Vehicle concept (Figure 4), with the same gross liftoff mass for both craft, although the Star-Raker’s dry mass would be 45% higher than the Boeing design and the vehicle would be exposed to a more severe aerodynamic heating environment.

Boeing_RASV

Figure 4: Boeing’s Reusable Aerodynamic Space Vehicle (RASV)

The Star-Raker team was not only confident they could build it, but expected each craft could sustain a rate of up to three flights per day. With this, a reasonably sized fleet could lift the target 1,600 tons per day, from a fairly normal, airport-like facility. The low capital costs of the facility and a small fleet of craft, and low maintenance cost per flight led to the estimate of $10-$15 per pound to orbit. This is perhaps twenty times less than the $220 margin cost per pound projected for the space shuttles, or roughly a thousand times less than the total cost per pound to orbit demonstrated by the shuttle fleet. Launching SSPS from Earth in kit form would thus be more economical than colonizing space to construct them (as outlined in the 1975 study). Star-Raker showed that aircraft-like operations could deliver costs to orbit seven to ten times the air freight cost per pound from the US to Australia, and presumably offer similar cost factors per passenger to orbit, even at the comparatively small flight rate of thousands of flights for the Star-Raker fleet, versus tens of millions of flights for a fleet airliners such as the Boeing 747.

Star-Raker_Approach

Figure 5: Star-Raker coming in for a landing.  Note ten running jet engines, and three inactive main rockets and two orbital maneuvering rockets at base of tail.
Operational Comparisons

Star-Raker_Ground

Figure 6: Star-Raker ground ops at commercial airport, with a second Star-Raker taking off above.

Star-Raker_Loading

Figure 7: Loading and unloading of 3 Star-Rakers.  Star-Rakers were expected to fly to commercial airports on their jet engines alone, to be loaded with their cargo.  They would then fly to a spaceport to be refueled, and loaded with Liquid Oxygen to boost themselves into orbit with the cargo.  Note swing open nose for cargo loading/unloading.

Rockwell studied the operational issues and requirements for launching 1600 tons of payload into low Earth orbit per day to support the construction of the referenced solar power satellite fleet. They specifically compared their Star-Raker turbofan/air-turbo-/exchanger/ramjet HTHL SSTO with 100 ton payload capacity to Boeing’s rocket-powered, vertical-takeoff, vertical-landing (VTVL) two-stage to orbit (TSTO), with 400 ton payload capability. (Note: the payload assumed for the Star-Rakers varies between various studies.)

Boeing’s two-stage HLLV

Figure 8: Boeing’s two-stage HLLV

Boeing’s VTVL TSTO vehicle would require ten launch pads, requiring extensive refurbishment between missions to meet the launch rate requirement of four flights per day from the Kennedy Space Center. Two new, high-bay Vertical Assembly Buildings (VAB) would also be required as opposed to two aircraft maintenance-type hangars for the Star-Raker. The Boeing VTVL TSTO would need 5.5 days to recover from the ocean, where it landed, and to restack two extremely heavy stages in the VAB. This assumes there was no recovery damage, which was considerably more likely for ocean landings than for runway landings. So although the air-breathing Star-Raker concept would require some advanced technologies, it appeared to be better suited for high flights rates (16/day) than the vertically-launched TSTO.

For the Star-Raker, a single-runway air base would support an entire fleet of thirty craft. By comparison, the VTVL TSTO’s launch range would have to be 850 square kilometers in area to accommodate a fleet of 22 vehicles and the launch noise they generated (120 decibels at 13km versus <120 decibels at 1km for the Star-Raker).

In comparison to Boeing’s winged horizontal take off, all-rocket based RASV (Reusable Aerodynamic Space Vehicle) HTHL SSTO concept mentioned above (Figure 4 above).  The RASV would require a special, very long, magnetic levitation runway to take off from, and another normal runway for landing.  There was no way it could fly in and out of normal airports to pick up their cargo, and then fly to the space port to boost into space, like the Star-Rakers.  Again, the turbo-ramjet engines would allow the Star-Rakers to carry double the payload of Boeing’s, with the same gross liftoff mass for both ships, and would eliminate the need for the magnetic levitation launcher track the RASV needed. Even assuming the RASVs could fly as often per day, it would require a fleet twice as large, with twice the capital and maintenance costs to keep the fleet running.

The Star-Raker was to be compatible with C-5A Galaxy cargo handling facilities and airports, with 2440-4270 meter runways. Indeed, one operational concept had the Star-Rakers flying airports near the cargo suppliers to be loaded. After the cargo was loaded at traditional airports, the ship would then fly to the launch port to be lifted onto its take off cradle, fully fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen, and would boost to orbit with no further cargo handling. This makes Star-Raker far more flexible than either Boeing’s VTVL two-stage craft or its magnetic levitation-launched HTHL RASV, at lower cost.


Star-Raker design features

Gross mass: 2,278,800 kg 5,023,800 lb
Payload: 100,000 kg 220,000 lb
Length: 94.50 m 310.00 ft
Span: 110.00 m 360.00 ft
Thrust: 20,480.00 kN 4,604,080 lbf
Apogee: 556 km 345 mi

Star-Raker system design features

Figure 9: Details of Star-Raker wing exterior and interior structure, engine details, and general specifications.

Star-Raker Design Features underside

Figure 10: Star-Raker Design Features[1]

[1] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1 -Space Transportation”. November 1981. Page 40 (1-17).

Star_Raker inboard Profile

Star-Raker Vehicle Section results

Figure 11: Vehicle profiles and sectional cutaways[2]

[2] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1 -Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 41 (1-18).

The Star-Raker design used ten, 140,000 pound-force turbo-ramjet jet engines to power the craft to Mach 7.2, with a takeoff speed of 225 knots up from a 14,000-foot runway. This eliminated over half the weight of fuel and LOx a pure rocket craft would need to reach the same speed. Three 1.06 million lbf LOx/LH shuttle SSME-type engine rockets kick in at Mach 6, take over completely by Mach 7.3, and continue from there up to 300 mile high orbits.

Upon reaching orbit, the whole nose of the Star-Raker would swing to the side to remove cargo. Reentering, the low wing-loading on the now lightly loaded craft would mean the surface temperatures of the skin would be manageable. Increased ascent temperatures while transporting cargo, would be absorbed by the cryogenic fuel.

Star-Raker Isotherms

Figure 12: Figure showing assent temperature load on the underside of the Star-Raker and NASA shuttle. [3]

[3] Independent Research and Development Data Sheet – Earth-to-LEO Transportation System for SPS. Project Number 243, Fy 1979.

Star-Raker_Launch_Traj

 Figure 13:  SSTO Launch Trajectory[4]

[4] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1 -Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 45 (1-22).

The most unusual feature of the Star-Raker design was the pressure-stiffened wings. Normally wings of this size, stiff enough to lift such a weight off a runway at 225 mph, would make the craft too heavy to reach orbit. But by allowing the boil-off gas to build up pressure in the wings, the wing pressure-induced tension stiffened them like the hull of the early Atlas missiles. Without the load of cryogenic fuel in the wings, the wings would be several times weaker – but the craft would be several times lighter, and could fly as a normal (if fast) jet aircraft.

Another unusual feature of the Star-Raker was a parachute-dropped takeoff cradle: effectively a heavy landing gear cradle capable of supporting the Star-Raker fully loaded with fuel and LOx for a flight to orbit. In this way, the lighter landing gear would be fully capable of handling the Star-Raker after its fuel/Oxygen load was consumed, and for normal flight operations. The heavy landing gear would be dropped after take-off, so its weight wouldn’t need to be lifted to orbit.

Star-Raker Multi-cycle Turbofan-turbo-ramjet and inlets

Figure 14: Multi-cycle Turbofan/turbo-ramjet and inlets.  These provide thrust [5]

[1] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1—Space Transportation” November 1981. Page 42 (1-19).   (http://www.alternatewars.com/SpaceRace/Star_Raker/NASA-TM-58238_Excerpt.pdf  http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/library/1981NASASPS-SpaceTransportation.pdf )

The Star-Raker’s proposed multi-cycle air-breathing engine system was derived from the General Electric CJ805 aircraft engine, the Pratt and Whitney SWAT-201 supersonic wraparound turbofan/ramjet engine, the Aerojet Air Turbo-rocket, Marquardt’s variable plug-nozzle, ramjet engine technology, and Rocketdyne’s tubular-cooled, rocket engine technology.

Star-Raker mass table.

Figure 15: The weight breakdown of the Star-Raker hull, systems, cargo, and fuel/LOx load, in metric tons.

 

How does the design look today?

A study done by NASA in late 1981, referencing these three designs, was expecting much lower cost to orbit numbers than folks of the time expected:

“…The workshop decided that, although rather advanced technology and well developed operational management would be required, it was proper to target the average cost of gross cargo payloads into LEO [Low-Earth Orbit] at $30 [1979]/kg for construction of the initial SPS [Solar Power Satellite]. The further cost goal for repetitive construction of 30 to 60 SPS would need to be reduced to $15 [1979]/ kg for all operational payloads for ESLEO [earth surface to low earth orbit] and would require the use of advanced, long-lived vehicles with a sophisticated operational organization”[6] (emphasis added).

“..an evolutionary series of heavy-lift and personnel-launch vehicles with chemical rocket propulsion can be targeted realistically to move heavy masses into LEO for $30 [1979]/kg by the year 2000. More advanced propulsion technology and vehicles may make $15 [1979]/kg a goal in the foreseeable future[7] (emphasis added.)

[6] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1—Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 138.

[7] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1—Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 248.

So looking back on it now, how realistic were those numbers?  Or more importantly, what could we do now with more advanced modern technology?  If it was proper in 1981 to expect to be able to lift “gross cargo payloads into LEO at $30 1979)/kg for construction of the initial SPS” and down to $15 (1979)/ kg” for a more advanced, mature, and larger scale operation ($96 and $48 per kg or $43-$22 per pound in 2015 dollars.), what could we do now?

In retrospect, hydrocarbon Mach 7 turbo-ramjets, and hydrocarbon<> LOx rocket engines would be much lighter, possibly half the weigh as expected for the Star-Raker, and allow a lower dry weight craft by eliminating most of the bulk and weight of liquid hydrogen tanks. Though the heavier fuel would make the takeoff weight higher (requiring either more efficient wings, or faster takeoff speeds), the dry weight and costs and operational complexity should be less. In general, modern systems are much more reliable and lighter weight than those of almost forty years ago. Similarly, modern materials (metals, composites, fiber-reinforced metals, etc.) would greatly lower the weight of the airframe and hull by perhaps by 30%. Ultra-high toughness ceramic composite (UHTCC) ceramic composite leading edges could not only be sharper and more aerodynamically efficient, they could offload heat that would otherwise spread out over the wings. Similar panels could also greatly lower the weight of other thermal protection system panels, further lowering the dry weight of the craft. At the least, a hydrocarbon-fueled Star-Raker of a similar size could have a 30% lower dry weight than the original design for the same cargo capacity, and the hydrocarbon engines can be built out of off the shelf parts. In short, it would be easier to do now.

I was involved in a project to commercially field a smaller craft than the Star-Raker with similar engines, though fueled with conventional jet fuel and liquid oxygen, and using more modern composites. Rather than costing $36 to $55 per pound to orbit in 2014 dollars, we were calculating more like $15-$20 per pound.

The problem of the need for heavy landing gear for a fully fueled/loaded Star-Raker was looked at by the British company Reaction Engines Limited’s Skylon team, but rather than assuming the need for a heavy takeoff cradle, they developed ways to dramatically lower the weight of the landing gear. The weight of normal landing gears is driven by the very large tires and wheels needed to distribute the weight over normal runways, and the heavy weight of uncooled brake disks. Specifying a super-hard runway for launches to orbit eliminated the heavy wheels and tires. A water-cooled braking system would allow smaller, lighter brakes still capable of handling emergency take-off abort loads. The water would add considerable weight, but could be dumped after the craft has taken off. With a similar landing gear driving the weight of a takeoff- capable landing gear down to 1.5% of the gross takeoff weight, as with Skylon, Star-Raker wouldn’t need a heavy landing gear or drop cradle for flights to orbit, even if assuming bigger, softer tires and with some extra weight allowed due to other weight reductions.

Context

The Star-Rakers are a tremendous—and all but forgotten—capability that was utterly unnecessary for any program we actually undertook in space. But it shows we have the capability to do more – and do it far more economically than most would assume.

As a passenger craft, a single Star-Raker could have lifted more people into orbit in a day than have so far reached there in all of human history. Theoretically, even if they spent one quarter of each year being serviced (insanely high for most military or commercial aircraft), a fleet of 1,000 Star-Rakers (a moderate-sized production run for airliners), each with a thirty-year service life (average to low for commercial and military aircraft) could lift all of the people of the Earth to orbit in 28 years, for a ticket price, assuming $30/pound operations, of $19,000 each.

In cargo configuration, one Star-Raker could lift as much cargo tonnage per week as has ever been launched in human history. The total estimated ten million ton weight of a 10,000 person L5 colony from the 1975 NASA space settlement study would take a 100-ship fleet of similar cargo craft under fifteen months to lift to orbit, for a total cost of $600 billion. Compare that to the $150 billion dollar Space Station budget, or to the budgets of hundreds of billions of dollars proposed for the return to the moon, or man to Mars programs.

A thousand similar Star-Rakers could lift a billion ton, 30km long Island 3 O’Neill cylinder in twelve years for $60 trillion. By way of comparison, this is less than the $73 trillion dollar global GDP for 2014. Of course you might want to be into space mining by then. Or develop something a little more advanced than a 1970’s era Star-Raker. But until then, they could support about anything anyone has dreamed of doing in space.

Sources Cited

“Earth-to-LEO Transportation System for SPS,” Independent Research and Development Data Sheet, Project Number 243. Rockwell International Space Systems Group, 15 December 1978. Retrieved from <http://www.alternatewars.com/SpaceRace/Star_Raker/Star-Raker_IRD_243.pdf >

“The Final Report of the SPS Space Transportation Workshop, January 29-31, 1980.” The Johnson Environmental and Energy Center, The University of Alabama-Huntsville, October 1980.  Retrieved from <http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/library/1981NASASPS-SpaceTransportation.pdf&gt;

Hanley, G.M. “NASA Contractor Report 3321: Satellite Power Systems (SPS) Concept Definition Study – Volume IV: Transportation Analysis.” NASA—Science and Technical Information Branch, 1980. Retrieved from <http://www.alternatewars.com/SpaceRace/ Star_Raker/NASA-CR-3321_Excerpt.pdf>

Hanley, G.M. and R. Bergeron. ”An Overview of the Satellite Power System Transportation System.” 14th Joint Propulsion Conference, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), July 1978.  Retrieved from < http://dx.doi.org/10.2514/6.1978-975>.

“NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program – Volume VII: Space Transportation.” NASA—Science and Technical Information Branch, 1981. Retrieved from <http://www.alternatewars.com/SpaceRace/ Star_Raker/NASA-TM-58238_Excerpt.pdf>

Reed, David A., Jr., Hideo Ikawa, and Jonas A. Sadunas. “Star-Raker: An airbreather/Rocket-Powered, Horizontal Takeoff Tridelta Flying Wing, Single-Stage-to-Orbit Transportation System.” Conference on Advanced Technology for Future Space Systems, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). May 1979. Retrieved from  <http://www.alternatewars.com/SpaceRace/Star_Raker/Star-Raker_SSD_79-0082.pdf>

[1] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1 -Space Transportation”. November 1981. Page 40 (1-17).

[2] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1 -Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 41 (1-18).

[3] Independent Research and Development Data Sheet – Earth-to-LEO Transportation System for SPS. Project Number 243, Fy 1979.

[4] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1 -Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 45 (1-22).

[5] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1—Space Transportation” November 1981. Page 42 (1-19).   (http://www.alternatewars.com/SpaceRace/Star_Raker/NASA-TM-58238_Excerpt.pdf  http://www.nss.org/settlement/ssp/library/1981NASASPS-SpaceTransportation.pdf )

[6] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1—Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 138.

[7] NASA Technical Memorandum 58238: “Satellite Power System: Concept Development and Evaluation Program Volume VI1—Space Transportation.” November 1981. Page 248.

BRISTOL TAKES OFF

A Crowdfunding Campaign to Bust Space Myths

Spacecab

Do you believe the following?

  • Space travel has to be dangerous, difficult, and very expensive.
  • You have to be superfit to go to space.
  • A small company cannot possibly make a big difference to the way ahead for spaceflight.

These are all myths!

Affordable public access to space for business and leisure could become available soon by building spaceplanes that were widely considered feasible in the 1960s.   Within 15 years, near-space could become as accessible as Antarctica is today!

  • An airliner capable of flying to a space station would transform spaceflight.   It would replace present throwaway launchers and would slash costs and greatly improve safety.   It would lead to a new golden age of space science and exploration, and to public visits to space hotels becoming widely affordable
  • We knew how to build one in the 1960s, when most large aircraft companies studied spaceplanes in depth.   They were not developed at the time because of the pressures of the Cold War space race.
  • This knowledge has been largely forgotten or overlooked, even though all the required technologies have since been proven in flight.
  • The founder of Bristol Spaceplanes is one of the few who worked on these 1960s spaceplane designs and who is still active in the field.   As a result, we can credibly claim to have the most competitive way ahead for bringing in the new space age.
  • Courtesy of the excellent pioneering work by Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and others, the revolution in spaceflight is now all but inevitable.   It could be brought forward several years by planning for it now.
  • The main obstacle today is the power of traditional thinking.   Large space agencies and other major players are locked into the throwaway launcher habit.
  • The above points are explained in more detail in a recent book written by the founder of Bristol Spaceplanes, ‘Space Exploration’ by David Ashford (Hodder and McGraw-Hill 2013).
  • One way to help to persuade major players to take spaceplanes seriously is to show large public interest.   We have therefore launched a crowdfunding campaign to help to dent the mindset—see http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/bristolspaceplanes.
  • The funding will be used to build a flying model of our Ascender entry-level suborbital spaceplane and for a publicity campaign.
  • Please support the new space age by backing our campaign!