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Author Topic: Using common sense to improve Rockets and Spacecraft  (Read 3555 times)

Jay Sadie

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Using common sense to improve Rockets and Spacecraft
« on: December 07, 2011, 02:51:36 AM »

Although I am a firm believer in replacing current spacecraft propulsion systems with more efficient and improved systems, I also realize that we have to work with what weve got at the moment. So, while rocket scientists are designing the next generation propulsion systems of the future we need to come up with a way to use our current rocket propulsion in a more effective way.

Most of the rocket fuel burned to place a spacecraft in orbit around the Earth is used up during the first couple of minutes during the launch. This is due to the fact that the rocket has to be lifted off the ground from a stationary position. Take something like the Space Shuttle for instance. It sits on a launch platform, with most of its fuel carried in the three external tanks (one on its belly, and the two solid boosters on the sides). Not only must the propellant lift the Shuttle off the ground, but also the propellent itself. The propellant weighs more than the spacecraft!

Would it not make more sense to launch spacecraft horizontally from around 50,000 feet above the Earth? And while its already travelling at around 600 miles per hour? It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that the amount of thrust, or energy, needed to launch it from such a position into orbit would require a fraction of the fuel needed compared to launching it vertically from the surface of the Earth.

[float=right][smg id=272 width=220 caption="SpaceShipOne in flight"][/float]The SpaceShip One project has already proven that a spacecraft can be launched from a mothership at an altitude of 15,200 m (50,000 ft), and can go supersonic within 8 seconds. After 70 seconds, the rocket motor cuts out and the spacecraft coasts to its peak altitude (suborbital). SpaceShip Two will be the next generation suborbital air-launched spaceplane designed for space tourism. It uses a feathered reentry system, feasible due to the low speed of reentry by contrast, the Space Shuttle and other orbital spacecraft re-enter at orbital speeds, closer to 25,000 km/h (16,000 mph), using heat shields. SpaceShipTwo is furthermore designed to re-enter the atmosphere at any angle.
[float=left][smg id=271 width=280 caption="SpaceShipTwo (central fuselage) carried under its mothership, White Knight Two"][/float]
I see no reason why the same principles used by the SpaceShip One and Two programs cannot be used to launch larger spacecraft into orbit. The Space Shuttle has been retired. NASA experimented with some replacement vehicles, but to date nothing concrete is on the cards to replace the Shuttle.

NASA has retired its Space Shuttles to focus on future missions to an asteroid and eventually Mars. Meanwhile, the private sector has been charged with developing spacecraft to reach the International Space Station and other possible destinations in low-Earth orbit.

My next suggestion is to assemble inter planetary spacecraft in orbit. Why continue to launch rockets from the Earth? It is extremely costly and archaic. I sometimes wonder what went wrong with the American Space Program. During the 1960s it reached its peak, in my opinion. We put a man on the moon. It was a massive achievement, especially considering the technology we had available at that time. NASA basically flew three men to the moon in a tin can, with computers that had less computing power than a modern cell phone.

We now have vastly improved technology, compared to the 1960s, and we have actually gone backwards. At this stage we should already have a base on the moon, at the very least, and maybe even one on Mars. There is talk and plans to do so, but with the current economic downturn and financial challenges, I have a strong suspicion that it will take longer than we think.

It is time to put the Space Program in the hands of the private sector. It will figure out a way to make it profitable. Space tourism immediately comes to mind. It will also create many new jobs and opportunities, which will be good for the economy. It will also create stronger bonds between countries. When countries work together there is less chance of fighting over trivial differences. Give people a common goal and they get along like a charm.

So, lets use common sense to launch the Space Program into higher gear. Whether you agree with me or not, our future is in the Stars. The alternative is obvious. Stay on this rock and we will ultimately burn when our sun becomes a red giant, as it expands and consumes our planet. Or, we could get hit by a large meteor or comet. This is not science fiction, but total reality. It can absolutely happen, even in the very near future.

The survival of the human species is directly related to its ingenuity and ability to propagate through the Universe. The longer we wait the more we are at risk. The current economic crisis is small fry compared to extinction.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2011, 08:19:20 AM by Jay Sadie »
"I do not think there is any thrill that can go through the human heart like that felt by the inventor as he sees some creation of the brain unfolding to success." - Nikola Tesla
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