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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
905 15TH ST WHEATLAND, WY 82201