THE FANTASTIC VOYAGE PART 1
After looking at individual stages and elements of a horizontal launch space plane we may consider how a mission might proceed. This system allows flexible launch and recovery options. Our first impressions might be that this is a large aircraft. The wing span is not that great, but when combined the vehicles are almost as long as the old Saturn rockets.
The aircraft is slender in the side view, but the carrier truck is deliberately massive to retain control authority on the runway. Its mass reduces cross wind issues and offers a powerful braking system in the event of a takeoff abort. It also minimizes the threat of tire failures and distributes the loads of the joined aircraft. Structural stresses on the joining structures are minimized during runway operations because both aircraft are fully supported.
Passenger access may be limited to one or two top hatches, and terminal access may be provided by a ramp access to a ladder at each hatch. Passenger accommodations may be a bit Spartan if functional needs drive the interior design elements. Sometimes functional design evolves a style of its own, a kind of techno-chic look.
It may be fun to offer passengers some instrumentation and view screens similar to the cockpit functions. Display screens can also relay information from the pilot and emergency instructions. Bored passengers could tune in a movie at times as well. Perhaps a vending machine could dispense treats in the Star Trek food replicator fashion. Perhaps toys for children could be 3D printed. I doubt we will be able to offer 3D printed snacks yet though!
A FIRST GLIMPSE OF THE INTERIOR
The aircraft truck uses a multitude of electric motors and they are computerized to pivot at the terminal, begin the taxi roll, line up the runway, and compensate for cross winds. The pilot may allow computer control, or manual override of the truck and both booster vehicles. Ground control can monitor all systems and flat screen displays can keep the flight crew posted on operations. Preflight checks are both automated and manually checked.
During the takeoff roll the ramp angle is optimized for the lift enhancing vortex formation. Instrumentation onboard and along the runway can measure wind and weather conditions for computer input. The pilot workload is shared among ground and onboard crew.
At liftoff the aircraft and truck are monitored to maintain separation. Both air and ground craft match speed and position along the runway. In the event of an abort, the aircraft and truck are matched in speed and position to allow a return to the cradle and braking on the runway.
An optimized launch might leave from Spaceport Houston on a southbound leg. Over the Gulf of Mexico an eastward turn would provide the launch azimuth. If problems develop multiple scenarios for return are presented. The crew escape vehicle would always separate from both boosters and return to any airport. The two boosters could be remotely landed on another runway truck at Houston or at the Kennedy Space Center shuttle runway. If the booster trouble is extreme one or both could be ditched at sea.
Normally turbine engines would have to cut out by 30-50,000 feet. The ride will be pretty conventional and comfortable as passengers know the airline experience well.
Liquid fuel rockets may be able to throttle up gradually to maintain passenger comfort in the transition from turbine propulsion. Once the liquids are at full throttle the small solid boosters won’t shake things up all that much.
Perhaps the solids could remain attached, or they may be released for recovery at sea later.
As the main engines cut off the vehicle stages prepare for separation. Compressed gas or thrusters may be used to slow the booster and thrust the orbiter ahead. This is safer than placing the orbiter on the back of the booster as it reduces the danger of collision. It also places the crew ahead of the boosters in the event of trouble with the main engines.
Now we are really off to space. The booster aircraft is returned to ground and automated control for its return to the space port.
The booster turbine engine inlet doors are closed for protection during reentry. Future versions with scramjets may not have turbines that require this protection. The orbiter liquid fuel engines throttle up gradually again for comfort, and hybrids can be fired when they are at full thrust.
At this point our orbiter begins a roll to the inverted attitude. Acceleration to orbital velocity is already generating centrifugal forces, so passengers will prefer to be pulled down into their seats instead of up against their seat belts.
For the first part of the flight passengers were seeing the darkening sky above. Now the Bright earth is over their heads in full view. Einstein assures us that it is all relative so passengers will relate to their vehicle for ups and downs.
For now the universe revolves around us…happy customers take in the views of the earth.
Depending on the mission and destination the craft can prepare for arrival now. The crew rescue vehicle is smaller and more maneuverable than the assembled orbiter so it can prepare to separate.
The cover(s) may be hinged or tracked to slide open to allow the CRV to be free of the orbiter.
When close to the destination the CRV thrusters can be used to dock at a station or a transfer vehicle for Lunar or deep space missions. Either could be larger and more comfortable than the launch taxi.
If Spacex hasn’t taken all the available parking, we may be able to use the air lock on the near end of the Bigelow space station / hotel. Enjoy your vacation stay!