Author Topic: Another space launch mousetrap moving along in development  (Read 299 times)

elagache

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Another space launch mousetrap moving along in development
« on: February 27, 2018, 11:29:11 PM »
Dear WeatherCat users with stars in their eyes,

Billionaire Paul Allen is another contender in the private space launch vehicle race.  However, he has decided to take a page from the original conception of the Space Shuttle and is employing an "air breathing" aircraft to carry rockets out of the lower atmosphere.   That aircraft is called the Stratolaunch and it is undergoing some taxi tests in preparation for its first flight.  Here is an article about it on the SpaceNews.com:

http://spacenews.com/stratolaunch-aircraft-edges-closer-to-first-flight/

Here is a photograph from the same article:



The advantage of this approach is avoiding to carry the oxidizer for the phase of the flight were you can burn air directly from the atmosphere.  Since the largest weight for a rocket is the fuel and oxidizer for the first stage, this represents a considerable savings.

Unfortunately, the stratolaunch uses six conventional Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines which limits the altitude and speed the launch vehicle can achieve.  The technology that was hoped to really revolutionize this sort of air breathing launch vehicle was the scramjet:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scramjet

Unfortunately the technology wasn't even remotely ready when the Space Shuttle was first designed and continues to be problematic.  If scramjets could be perfected, they would provide the means to accelerate a payload to hypersonic speeds while still using only oxygen from the atmosphere.  A scramjet based lower stage aircraft would greatly lower the cost of launching payloads while simplifying the recovery of the lower stage since it would simply fly back like an airplane.

Cheers, Edouard   [cheers1]