NO BONES ABOUT IT…
I have a problem here. Last week we discovered a weighty problem with our fuel load, and we are unlikely to cram enough into the second stage. But our empty weight estimates were based on historical designs with more metal than composites. We will begin to seek mass reduction in the structural area to begin with. Later we can explore the potential of new propulsion technology.
As we said this will not produce an actual design, but it will produce a CAD model that can help predict structural mass. The models will be edited for mass data that reports total mass and the center of gravity. From one solid model I do a lot of carving to emulate a complex structural assembly with a single model. The first basic model is fun, but it never ends as we strive to shave off weight.
It looks a little breezy now, but we can cover it later with lightweight skins and thermal protection. There are a lot of details to add as mechanisms and payload are considered. All have to have mass data entered and analyzed.
Looking at our Concorde role model, we see a simplified representation of the delta wing with spaces for fuel tanks and a big opening for landing gear. There is both a problem and an opportunity in that. The wing spars pass their loads under the fuselage and bulkheads. Where there are few spaces for spars not filled with fuel, an opening for landing gear is another gap in available structures.
The reality is a bit more complex in the complete structure. The thin airfoils offer only a low height for spars, and they meet the fuselage abruptly, preventing the deeper section of a blended body.
Here is a good example of a wing blended into the fuselage. This allows tall bulkhead sections and smooth transitions that distribute stresses over and under the fuselage. Again we see a gap at the landing gear.
This must have been a challenge with the thin wing leading edge. The “Y” at the rear still offers little path for stresses over the center. But that “bridge” structure over the engines is a nice fix. May I suspect that it could offer a service access to the engines?
Here the F-35 Joint Strike fighter again displays a nice load distribution over and under the fuselage and engine. Fighters have a huge “G” force loading in combat so this is a tough solution to deliver.
I believe the center structure is a large titanium part, possibly machined from a solid block. That is a heroic large investment but it is light and strong. We may see new technologies that can deliver a similar but cheaper result. I expect much lower stresses on our little orbiter, so we have a use for that.
What can we do about heavy landing gear? We may steal some ideas from the past again. Here is a very light weight landing gear on a space plane from days of old. Hard to take off on those though!
A space plane that never got off the ground may yet launch some good solutions. The Rockwell Star-Raker was a bridge too far in its day, but pieces look valuable today. We can use fuel under pressure as a way to bolster lighter bulkheads and spars. It was a technical challenge for cryogenic fuels, but we see it available with HTP and jet fuel.
JETTISONABLE LAUNCH GEAR? The Germans did that in WWII but I hate bombing civilians with aircraft wheels! We like light landing gear but we have a very different takeoff gear in mind for later. These are little bits that can add up to big mass savings. Takeoff gear for a bird this big is a mass we can do without. Landing skids can fit in those narrow gaps shown below.
So we target mass reduction while delivering conceptual mechanisms for in-line staging. We don’t show the top and bottom flanges of bulkheads or lightening holes yet. But fuel tanks now have made openings in the first stage frame. This leaves two very deep spar sections all the way across the fuselage. Between the stages is an expendable stage with a sturdy structure.
Eight worm drive servos pin the structures at four points on each stage. Later a gas piston system will motivate stage separation with vigor.
Four aerodynamic spar fins offer tapered holes as hard point attachment. If any should jam, pyrotechnic devices can blow the joints in an emergency. Better to damage a booster and save the payload or crew.
EIGHT HARD POINT PIN MECHANISMS
Our forces should be less than a combat aircraft, so a titanium structure should again be adequate for this installation. (can you see a CAD error in this image?) A Boeing patent shows two smaller vehicles joined by four folding inter-stage spars. I think we can do this with one good solid structure.
CAD designers can picture things like this, but aircraft designers have to think about making it work. Here is one I found online which suggests a similar idea where wings do not operate in close harmony. It also points out the issue with landing gear. Three sets of landing gear? How does this aircraft rotate on takeoff to achieve the angle of attack for flight? Well, Dan Raymer’s Aircraft Design book tells us not to fall in love with our CAD images. Take breaks often!
Here we may begin to flesh out the vehicle and its upper stage. Well, I am still trying to earn my weirdness merit badge. How am I doing so far? Remember, I am illustrating the questions and there are more solutions that I don’t know about yet. I am challenging innovators and vendors to inform us of better methods and products. Aircraft designers and rocket guys bring your ideas! Aero and Space have not been talking for a while now. We may assume that additive manufacturing has ideas about those titanium structures. There are also new technologies for thermal protection and propulsion. You are all invited to contribute on our Facebook group and publish to “Wings to Space” blog.
This Launcher Evolution Advanced Prototype (LEAP) is a feasibility study, not a finished design. It will change as the design evolves. As such we are harvesting ideas and data from other projects and publications. Seeking the best of this we may use some estimation to project possible value. Again we offer the question; is this concept worth evaluation? The answers will require funding to motivate qualified analysis. By offering these ideas on an open forum we allow you to observe as we discover ideas and barriers along the way.
We are able to aim at best models and seek compromises that move past the observed problems. There are a lot of ideas out there that may open doors if we find the right combinations. Trade studies offer comparisons of these combinations to validate best opportunities. Our aerodynamic ideal will have to accommodate compromises with other issues like mass, thermal heating, and structures.
Rocket Fuel can be bulky and heavy when so much energy is needed to achieve orbit. We need to make some estimates that can fit the aerodynamic model. Since I can’t pay rocket scientists, I gather any published data from other projects. They may not be perfect, but they are probably better that my best guess work. We gathered published information about the Bristol Spaceplanes Space Cab for comparisons. We assumed the cryogenic fuels and the volumes they projected. Similarly we compared to other aircraft for mass estimates. We end up generating a unique solution as we progressed. Now we need to explain the high mass of our fuel load indicated here.
Cryogenic rocket fuels are hard to fit in an aerodynamic airfoil shape. They are usually cylindrical or spherical as the most mass efficient container for high pressures. For the Rockwell Star-Raker they proposed to make shaped tanks with shared flat sides. They had problems with that on the X-33, and I am not sure we can do that now. As such the best shape is a tapered cylinder like the Soyuz, which can fit an airfoil shape better. I did try simple flat tank proposal to fit our wing though.
STAR RAKER CONCEPTS
The Rockwell Star-Raker proposed an “air mattress” shape with flat sides to strengthen its wings. We proposed a little less bold application by placing tanks between linear structural members. We have to reserve space for structures in our proposal too. This structural shape is still just an estimate that targets known needs for landing gear and propulsion forces.
Tanks can add structural value when filled under pressure. A beer can with the top sealed can take a big load if you want to stand on it. After you pop the top is easily crushed. But the strength is a little less in lateral forces, as it can be dented even when filled. This benefits the Atlas rocket, and Star-Raker proposed to use this to reinforce wings. We only proposed to squeeze tanks in line with linear structures for some advantage. It isn’t an easy thing to do.
We can’t really pack tanks that tight because we have to clear landing gear and the taper of the airfoil. And attempts to build complex tanks were not too successful on the X-33 program. We can squeeze more, but there will still be unused volume.
When mating these tanks to a winged vehicle, even a simple modification of flat sides still leaves a lot of space un-used. Jet fuel can fit in wing tanks, but cryogenic tanks are bulky.
Unfortunately cryogenic tanks aren’t flat sided yet, and still tend to fit this form, which is harder to package within an optimized blended wing body.
There will be an increase in mass once fuel tanks materials and insulation are factored in. There may be advantages to propulsion if we can overcome this though. We are considering new air breathing engine technology. The Air Force wants to test a small version of the Sabre engine as shown here. This initially interested us for our airframe.
SMALLER SABRE PROTOTYPE
I think we can see more mass than a comparable turbine engine but there may be enough thrust and oxidizer load reduction to justify that. This may justify using cryogenic fuels, but we don’t have a good way to package without the less efficient fat fuselage. We may need to consider a different solution though.
We wanted to show a better proposal than what the Air force is now considering. In-line staging can reduce drag, increase lift, and offers other mass reduction methods. this may be critical to launching from a runway.
Our first design was far short of the volume needed for cryogenic fuels. We can try to cram more in, but there is a big gap to close. We should look at an all new HTP version next. Here we can see that our wing body is far short of the fuel load of the Space Cab.
COMPARING THE LEAP VEHICLE TO THE SPACECAB
We can build shape conforming tanks with non-cryogenic fuels, but they still offer challenges. Hydrogen Peroxide is an alternative but it has much greater density and mass. Now we need to compare thrust and mass properties to consider feasibility. Can we make the mission with these alternative fuels? (Or are they an alternative reality?)
SpaceCab and LEAP have similar empty mass, but we need more oxidizer mass. We observed data from the British Black Arrow HTP rockets and compared them to cryogenic vehicles to generate a factor comparing performance. Our spreadsheet magic predicted a need for 25% more fuel mass than a cryogenic system, not counting tank mass differences. To be conservative, we targeted 50% more fuel. Better to have extra tank volume if needed to balance in flight. Lighter tanks will recover some of that, and they can fill all the available volume in an airfoil shape.
This NASA technical report confirmed our interest in HTP. “Summary and Conclusions A trade study considering two alternate oxidizers, liquid oxygen or 90% hydrogen peroxide, for a rocket based combined cycle demonstrator vehicle was completed. Given the limited energy requirement (AV) of the demonstrator vehicle (Mach 0.7 to 7), the higher density and mass ratio of 90% hydrogen peroxide yielded similar vehicle performance when compared to LOX. Additionally, hydrogen peroxide provided system simplification, increased flight safety and packaging advantages. After consideration of the technical and programmatic details, 90% hydrogen peroxide was selected over liquid oxygen for use in the ISTAR program.”
PEROXIDE AND JET FUEL TANKS
With HTP we can effectively fill the gaps between the structures and follow the airfoil form fully. This delivers the required fuel for the mission and allows vacant tank volume for in-flight balance in supersonic flight. We will also maintain low pressure (30 psi) in these tanks, so structural strength is aided, and mass is reduced. The Star-Raker concept lives again!
What does a heavy fuel load mean to our mission? We have to remember that the fuel load will drop quickly during takeoff. Compared to commercial craft we will not nurse the fuel in a long cruise. Indeed this is a space mission where a lot will come from thrust. But wing loading is not too unreasonable in historical comparisons.
So fuel will shape the mission and the vehicle. But it will also affect costs in shipping and storage. Peroxide also comes off as a fairly clean fuel.
ROCKET FUEL: TANKS AND STORAGE
Rocket cost can’t be divorced from the storage and transportation of rocket fuel. This is what you can expect with cryogenic fuels; not a cheap plan to deliver cold fuels.
Hydrogen peroxide and jet fuel are room temperature low cost storage issues. Thin tanks and fuel bladders work in about any shape. Even plastic water tanks work, as seen here at Frontier Astronautics’ facility in Wyoming.
If we can build around the fuel load we can go on designing tanks, airframe, and mechanisms. All this will feed data as the CAD tools will record mass and balance data. While this not a final design, it may provide a fair prediction of good design. That comes when we can make paychecks. There is a lot more innovation coming that can justify that investment…stay tuned!
PAPER AIRPLANE: a civilian space consortium…JOIN THE VOYAGE!
Exodus Aerospace is a very small entity. This is mostly this old mechanical designer enjoying his retirement, but a few engineers have contributed along the way. Actually I have contributed design and drafting to four different horizontal launch ventures in addition to my own. One of those engineers suggested that we should be looking at orbital ventures instead of the suborbital and tourist ventures. That provoked me into seeking better ways to do horizontal launch to LEO. I invested time and money in patents that may be part of the solution.
But going to orbit requires a lot of good ideas to work. Getting there by horizontal launch has been analyzed for decades and is still needing a lot more good ideas. Fortunately there have been a few good ideas that were overlooked in the past. In the right combination they may lead to a workable solution. I don’t have all the answers, but I may have some of the questions. You may have a few yourself, so I am going to present my studies in an open online forum. All are free to follow our design process and contribute ideas and your own business assets to the process.
We are not pushing for investment, but this may be worth watching. Everyone can learn from watching the design process unfold. This is a paper airplane now, but the ideas will be provocative. We should target a system that will be more than an answer; it should be the answer. If innovative thinking is focused we will outline real high value solutions.
Questions that merit more evaluation may lead to a viable business. Engineers and managers need paychecks to point to the future of space launch. A good design outline can draw the investment to launch a real industry. This is our opportunity to flesh out a totally new kind of space launch system. This may prove to be the key to safe affordable space access. We welcome criticism because it reveals weaknesses that need to be fixed. We also welcome new ideas that can solve those problems.
Our Computer aided drafting (CAD) tools are a window on the future. Beyond the blueprint that is a map for the shop, these models are a window to the future. Because they are built on accurate measuring tools they gather data beyond mere illustrations. It is possible to make a rough model that tracks mass and balance data to tailor performance. Engines, mechanisms, structures, and fuel tanks can be planned to fit the best aerodynamic shapes. Ideas that cut mass and drag can come together in the virtual world with no major cost. These are more than just pretty pictures.
We have flown model airplanes that provided some lessons already. Now the virtual model allows us to do trade studies of a variety of new ideas. We have a few ideas now, but inventors and vendors around us have a lot of ideas we have not yet considered. All of you have experience that may shape the future of aerospace. Everyone may make suggestions, and vendor advertisements are welcome. We have a flexible forum available.
- 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, 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 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
WE MIGHT ALL BE ABLE TO GET THERE FROM HERE…
My previous two blogs point out how big ventures may be slow on innovation and small ventures are slow to achieve funding. I suggested a contest like the X-Prize to stimulate multiple proposals to improve launch technology. I pointed to the possibilities of our own in line staging proposals. However the X-Prize forgot low earth orbit and went straight to the moon. So how do any innovative ventures get to orbit now?
Perhaps the same pressures that first sent us to the Moon are coming back on-line now. China and Russia are making us aware of military challenges that we thought were fading into the past. There are signs that America is recognizing shortcomings in our innovation process. Big aerospace companies have been growing into big monopolies that are slow to innovate. Small ventures fail to inspire confident funding and fade away. A few wealthy men still push innovation but they may not have all the answers.
In the depression years men like Howard Hughes pushed innovation so we had some understanding when the crisis of war became real again. Smaller companies were ready to spring into action with new systems when needed. We may also be facing problems related to our political obsession with lobby money. There is a chance that the Air Force may be able to change the game for space launch innovation.
Defense News published an article: “Air Force Launches Space Consortium” which describes a blend of big and small ventures. Initially they are soliciting potential consortium managers who have the skills to lead such ventures. Later there will be requests for proposals, and organization for contracts. While this is all preliminary organization, the inclusion of education, small, and large ventures is a positive sign. We really have no more old missiles for space launch, and new vehicles cannot be both expendable and affordable. It is time for change. the Air Force published a request for information (RFI) about their Space Enterprise Consortium. Now they have launched a Defense Accelerator.
This looks like light at the end of the tunnel perhaps. Government purchases are usually published on FedBizOpps.Gov where one may age quickly seeking innovation. How can they list ideas that they have not become aware of? This consortium may actually lend an ear to new ideas. I remember NASA responses sounded to me like “We at NASA already know all there is to know about aerodynamics”. Well, not exactly those words, but pretty close in intent. If it takes a mad Russian to revive common sense, I hope he keeps kicking shins. Just be ready when he swings a right hook.
GO FOR LAUNCH?
So, what can an unemployable draftsman do? We assume that blueprints are the map that tells the shop what the engineers want. That is partly true, but the engineers want a paycheck. So before there is a blueprint, there is a feasibility study, a fake blueprint. We don’t have all the math done yet, but based on past experience we assemble the best parts in a way the investors can learn to love. Today designers are part of marketing. We draw graphic illustrations that the investor’s engineers may not reject offhand. We deliver estimated math and cost so marketing can get the buyers into the finance office. Every new car buyer knows what happens next…but they love driving it home!
My latest new car is no longer in production, but it is a cult favorite with a huge resale value. It is also a reliable rugged off-road workhorse; a winner. Now that could make the investors happy if they get more than they expected. Satellite and manned operations need low-cost and friendly insurance carriers. Mistakes that cost money and lives are not to be the future of space launch. So get ready to invest in reusable vehicle development costs that will pay back a long safe history of reliable launch operations. As an artist I present the best ideas that I have seen engineers use in the past. New ideas should be evaluated too if we want to own an advantage over other companies in the market. If the Air Force gets this then we are coming out of the tunnel. If not, that light may be an oncoming train wreck.
EXODUS AEROSPACE PROPOSALS COMING
OK, we are developing a feasibility study for orbital services with many innovative solutions. We spent time on a prototype that is suborbital, but it reveals some of the ideas that have since been growing. So today I want to publish some of our Ideas that can validate steps towards the orbital mission. Our “Staging Key Initial Prototype” (SKIP) is prototype 5. It may illustrate some features, but we expect more value for any serious investment.
AERODYNAMIC IN-LINE STAGING
Typical horizontal launch has used “piggy back” staging. This can have issues with aerodynamics that my cause collisions when done in the atmosphere. It certainly causes increased frontal area and turbulent drag. This hinders efficiency when attempting to use a longer ascent with air-breathing engines. Hiding the upper stage in the booster misses the opportunity for both sets of wings to contribute to lift. Placing the orbiter in front increases lift without the drag penalty.
AERODYNAMIC STAGE COLLABORATION
When two blended wing bodies are blended as one wing they offer more lift and less drag. Getting a heavy load of fuel off the ground needs this efficiency. The mass of an orbiter is shaped to be a contribution to the combined vehicles instead of being only parasite mass.
EMERGENCY ATMOSPHERIC STAGE SEPARATION
Ideally staging for an orbiter can be in space, outside the influence of atmospheric turbulence. But we can demonstrate the potential to stage in the atmosphere in an emergency. The shuttle had problems with boosters that damaged the orbiter because of their proximity and lack of escape systems. Traditional rockets allowed the capsule to escape by accelerating forward. So we stage in front of the booster to allow stage separation and escape. The booster may be lost if it is out of balance, but payloads and passengers have a way home. Our suborbital prototype will always stage in the atmosphere. Orbital variants will benefit from this demonstration as well. More redundant safety plans prevent costly shut down time and high insurance costs.
The X-37 has been doing this for years. We have the technology. If crew members can do a landing that’s fine. But if they are ever disabled we can still bring them back alive as AAA used to say. Horizontal takeoff and landing is a gentle way to deliver payloads as well. Perhaps suborbital delivery is overrated but once it happens that may change.
VIRTUAL SPACE TOURISM
I make no great claims, but a theater may deliver live images from even the early test flights. Hollywood might have a use for such footage in their industry too. We should at least have a documentary about the emerging space future in this.
It may be time to flight test some new materials. Carbon foam, ceramic composites, and new thermal protection all welcome new vendors and suppliers to deliver better solutions.
Here in Wyoming we have available 100% HTP fuels and flight tested engines. For this prototype the Frontier Astronautics monopropellant Asp engine is illustrated. We may see innovation in air-breathing propulsion in the near future too. There are two small PBS turbines installed with inboard stations for ram jet testing. Inlet doors close during reentry on the engine installations.
FUEL TANK STRUCTURAL CONTRIBUTION
Peroxide fuel needs no elaborate thermal insulation or heavy tanks. With fuel pumps we can even use fuel bladders with low pressurization. Even 30-40 psi make your car tires pretty firm. Add that to the basic structural strength as a safety margin. This was proposed for the Rockwell StarRaker but that required cryogenic tanks with greater mass.
Small prototypes don’t need huge buildings or workforces. Small vendor shops have other business already so a new space company doesn’t have to keep a large workforce. Everyone likes to get a few more jobs to keep the paychecks flowing though. With experienced consortium managers we can keep the schedule moving and solve problems when they come up. At times the big aerospace firms are the best place to source the tough fabrication jobs.
FACILITIES FOR SMALL VEHICLES ARE AVAILABLE
Spaceport New Mexico can work with the white Sands range. They offer a sophisticated tracking camera system to launch services. Space Florida may offer the shuttle landing strip for testing. We also know of an abandoned air strip on an uninhabited island that may offer a safe landing facility. These require no one dedicated facility as vertical launch does. How easy to shelter operations in a wartime if small launchers can use any runway. A sniper rifle could demolish a vertical launch vehicle with one shot. These can be moved, bunker sheltered, and launched quickly. Even an aircraft carrier is an option here!
BETTER DESIGNS FOR ORBITAL OPERATIONS MAY PUT THE BIG SPACE COMPANIES TO WORK
Using the best professional consortium managers will advance good ideas and eliminate waste. Good lessons learned make opportunities for corporations to tool up production for real value. Investors can watch the best innovation being guided by the best experience. The illustrations shown here are only a suggestion of what is coming off the drawing board now. They are some new ideas and many old ideas in different combinations. But these are already history. Stay tuned for more news on the future…we’re just getting off the ground!
I am a semi-retired designer with some notions about improved methods of space launch. We may need to provide a better path for younger idea men to build our future though.
I published a blog and shared on LinkedIn about limitations of current paths to LEO; “You Can’t Get There From Here”. I may have oversimplified, but we may be able to do more.
Actually, we do get there, but with high costs and low flight rates. I have been contributing drafting services to many space ventures and these provoked some patents for horizontal launch solutions. Over time smarter people have contributed to improvements and we may see a viable answer taking shape.
I am concerned about the landscape littered with broken new space companies. There is evidence that the business boosters (funding sources) may be as volatile as vehicle boosters. In some cases, investors and management are capable of throwing the baby out with the bath water. Others are destructive in other ways that hinder innovation.
Government (SBIRs) only shops for ideas that they know about, and may miss unique solutions that are unknown to them. Some private investors may not understand how to survive in this tough market. Competition may be unfair if a less effective concept has government or billionaire funding. In some cases, big aerospace companies may devour small ventures and run away with IP while killing the creative work. Sadly a partner may cause damage by stealing IP, harming everyone. Many threats make it hard to get innovation moving.
Before aerospace companies began merging we had more parties capable of competing for design contracts. In our current political environment, a lobby may be more important than engineering or bidding. We witness more cost overruns and uncertain technical value. Do we have an environment that can still produce good technologies for future needs?
Having a small venture with big ideas we see a huge challenge to present new ideas for serious funding. We are cautioned by the demise of so many small ventures, but motivated by apparent needs. I am nearly 70 years old so this is a venture for those who will live to see it through. I am learning a lot from other partners about possible solutions though.
I proposed a typical path of small prototypes that would struggle to find funding but be feasible for small build groups. The SBIR path never hits the right needs at the right time, and private funding seeks fast results. Aerospace is not a low-cost fast return venture like software though. There is interest but it requires an experienced team and heavy investment. That at least might present as being scalable to bigger markets.
A good solution should target the needs of customers in the real markets. So we are looking ahead to a future vehicle that would be built around customer needs. I have a meeting with a satellite customer this month to learn more about satellite customer needs. Our “paper airplane” study already has our patented in-line staging and seven pages of new technology topics. The potential is to deliver smooth safe reusable launchers with redundant recovery options to reduce insurance costs. The Greater value may apply with later manned applications. I know better than to present this to investors now, but someday space access may need new ideas. Some features may be invalid, while others may merit new patents. This looks for a path to validate a wide range of ideas and that takes more money than most national budgets can give.
Surprisingly private ventures are delivering new rockets with millions instead of billions today. It’s too bad that business incubators rarely know how to connect aerospace innovation with that class of investment. Additionally, they are often fighting for only one state instead of united states. No one state has enough resources to gather every asset for a vehicle program. Big space might have a lock on big ideas for now, but there may be a way for the future.
There is interest in space growing all over America, but incubators can only launch small ventures that cannot do a whole vehicle program. But the interest even manifests in business, medicine, engineering, and other fields that are all needed. As a draftsman, I cannot deliver nearly enough to make one giant venture like SpaceX or Virgin Galactic. But a draftsman is in a unique position.
We do deliver drawings to the shop when there is a company with paychecks. But early on we also deliver the feasibility study, an illustration of the future. That has drawn a number of people who do have some credentials, but little free time. Their help is presenting a preliminary design. There are other good ideas in America, but little hope of delivering a big change in aerospace markets. Still, if the concepts were presented to others who have skills and interest, subgroups may contribute elements that illustrate and validate potential solutions. That can be done at small local incubators.
A design challenge might identify several competing vehicle concepts. Perhaps we cannot launch a mega corporation with local incubators, but we may launch technical and business elements that can add up to one. A paper airplane may deliver real investment. Could this be a valuable target for an “X Prize” type competition? Local state incubators could mentor the business, marketing, technical, legal, and maker spaces to better flesh out subtopics at a manageable level. Individual states could gather those new industries while getting the advantages from other states ventures at the same time. I like United States, and we should work together.
This might discover new ideas that leave our own proposal in the dust, but that is not all bad. We need better answers going ahead. But without all those assets let’s look at our own modest proposal. The future should be even better!
Suppose a lifting body orbiter had a horizontal launch booster that would deliver it to space without the massive payload fairing of the Atlas or Arianne boosters. What if it could rescue payloads or crews and deliver smooth missions and return inoperative satellites?
If a booster has advanced air breathing and aerospike technologies, it could be near SSTO in performance. A mid-stage fairing connection blends a lifting body orbiter to operate as one vehicle at launch. The potential to launch and service satellites could begin with a small prototype. Every payload can be tested before release and returned if inoperative. Returning minerals from space mining would be safer with winged orbiters. And we have heard that wings are a comfort to returning astronauts. The ability to escape booster malfunctions and land the orbiter payload safely is also an asset.
This is one notion with many details that need engineers and paychecks to analyze and revise. But there should be a lot more in the future if the road is paved instead of blocked. Biplanes were great but we have learned a little since the beginning. Wings to space, the Wright stuff.
If there are dozens of potential technical solutions, we need as many political and business solutions. We need to pave the way for future innovation; we have the technology. I am working with Wyoming business initiatives now, and have proposed student design projects at the University of Colorado in the past. Wyoming and Colorado have shared assets already so I am traveling in this area for meetings this month. I hope to see this “space corner” as a starting point to lubricate innovation. I am writing this in a fevered late night brainstorm that may need a better guidance system. I am not an engineer, but I may be an Imagineer. I don’t have all the answers, but I might have some of the questions. Are we ready to boldly go?
No you can NOT get to space like this.
It’s almost the fourth of July and rockets will fill the sky. But you can’t get there from here. We have been inspired by fireworks and rockets but they cannot reach the stars by brute force. Certainly writers of fiction have favored the vertical launch rocket…or even a giant cannon in the past. German scientists had funding to make it work…up to a point. Even today we are attempting to do the “Flash Gordon” vertical landing, and it will work…up to a point.
When engineers analyze reliability of systems they involve math for statistics. Statistically the more machinery, systems, and operations are involved the higher the potential for a tiny failure which may cascade into a big failure. The Spacex landing has repeated the failure of the DC-X which was precipitated by a tiny landing gear problem. In fact they have found several ways to bend and burn boosters. In the long term they will get better, but never perfect, and probably not a lot better. It is like taking odds on a sports event. How would Las Vegas rate this system for long term economy?
So far only the first stages have been recovered and we have yet to see a second stage recovery or a capsule recovery and actual reuse. No capsule has ever been reusable after returning from orbit to date. But other orbital vehicles have returned from orbit to fly again another day…with wings. The space shuttle was expensive but it was reusable. Don’t consider that investment lost though, because the lessons live on today.
The Boeing X-37 is a fully reusable miniature orbital space shuttle. The Air Force has been flying it to orbit and back for years now. In fact one remained on orbit for two full years before coming home. We have two of these in operation today. While Spacex has been landing and crashing first stages the X-37 has a zero failure history…no crashes. And another X-plane is about to join the X-37 by delivering cargo to the International Space Station. The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser is a design based on Russian and NASA experiments. It too will be a reusable orbital vehicle.
It begins to look like wings to space is the “Wright stuff” for orbital reentry. In the future asteroid mining may want to return minerals to earth. Would you rather have a load of rocks coming home on a parachute or on a winged vehicle? That sounds like a solid case for winged orbiters. But they still have one small problem; getting to space. They depend on expendable (throw away) vertical launch rockets. We have discovered an unpleasant reality about this system. Winged orbiters generate aerodynamic lift, which may cause a bending moment on the joint between the vehicles. Some kind of aerodynamic issues have forced both vehicle to ride in an aerodynamic shroud. That cover is extra weight that robs the mission of useful payload. It also forced the Dream Chaser to add folding wings to fit the shroud.
Even if you recover the boosters, this system is fighting against nature several times over. Imagine launching a Boeing 747 by vertical takeoff. It would need a rocket engine because the jets can’t do that. It would have to carry fuel and oxygen tanks that take away from the payload again. If the airplane uses its jets and normal takeoff the engines breathe atmospheric air and they are far more fuel efficient. The Orbital Sciences Pegasus has been carried aloft by an airplane for many years now. A larger version may launch a downsized Dream Chaser one day.. They have several advantages but they are still limited by the lack of oxygen for jets at high altitude. They also offer little speed to a 15,000 mph mission need.
X-37 IN ITS LAUNCH SHROUD…HEAVY!
DREAM CHASER IN ITS SHROUD ON ATLAS AND ARIANNE LAUNCHERS…HEAVY!
MINI-CHASER, STRATOLAUNCHER, AND THE WINGED ORBITAL SCIENCES MID STAGES
This illustrates some great steps in the right direction. Orbital Sciences and Scaled Composites have done a lot of work together since the Pegasus. They will still have to consider the structural forces of the Dream Chaser wings in their aerodynamic studies. But this is creating lift that helps the craft to climb and does not make a vector force that may change the trajectory. There is still a lot of frontal area but speeds are low enough that a little extra jet fuel won’t hurt the mission. First stage performance is low so extra throw away rocket stages are needed. It is also much smaller than the original Dream Chaser design though. How does the first stage climb to 5 miles at 500 mph contribute to a mission that needs 15,000 mph to reach orbit? With more expendable stages.
Suppose that we plan a purpose built clean sheet solution. We want a high performance first stage that can breathe air and go really fast with an upper stage that can go to orbit. We need the best aerodynamics and propulsion available. The defense department has been straining to build such launch systems. One proposal offers a hypersonic airplane with a typical cylindrical rocket on its back. Now hypersonic demands exotic jets engines and razor sharp aerodynamics. I wonder how this big tank rocket will be pushed to extreme speeds and temperatures in this shape? Seriously guys, hypersonic??
Then we have to remember a piggy back high speed drone from history. The SR-71 launched D-21 drones until one had aerodynamic or control issues and hit the carrier aircraft. Vertical launch rockets are staged in-line so the Orbital Sciences vehicle may enjoy a safety factor during staging. Well the Shuttle was a piggy back design but you remember how THAT worked! Two shuttles were destroyed by being too close to the booster malfunctions. Capsules staged in-line were enabled to escape to the front and that saved a Russian crew once. We must also remember that vertical launch may end in range destruction while a jet may get out to sea before initiating rocket ignition. With wings, stage separation may rescue your customer payload. What do your insurance carriers and facility owners think about that?
Now a clean sheet design needs to be focused on aerodynamic harmony and reachable propulsion solutions. Putting stages in line can consider two craft as one if the wings work in harmony. Two wings that work as one avoid conflicting forces in flight. To that end advanced aerodynamics are looking hard at blended wing bodies. They offer internal volume, structural advantages, low drag, and natural heat shield forms. If they were attractive in atmospheric operations they are more so to launch services.
The ideal form for takeoff would emulate the vortex of the Concorde, which needs no flaps to launch a heavy aircraft with a full fuel load. The combined stages will have this form initially, then divide as two craft optimized for different flight conditions. The first stage returns as a delta wing with low mass after most fuel is burned off. The orbital stage is typical for reentry bodies with low aspect ratio and a rounded under body. It will use the same fuel as the X-37 because Hydrogen peroxide can stay on orbit without cryogenic cooling. Both stages use jet fuel which is also used by air breathing engines.
DELTA WING VORTEX LIFT AT HIGH ANGLE OF ATTACK
The vehicle illustrated next is a small suborbital prototype. The problem here is that suborbital is not a great market for an expensive development program. A fully reusable system begins to offer good returns on satellite launching services. But asteroid mining may generate two way traffic that really increases the value of this system. The real future belongs to manned operations where safety and comfort mean much more than lower insurance costs. For now consider the market potential of regular low cost reliable reusable satellite launches. And remember; the orbital vehicles will be even more interesting than these prototypes.
EXODUS AEROSPACE PROTOTYPE P5; “SKIP”
STAGE SEPARATION AT HIGH ALTITUDE TO REDUCE AERODYNAMIC THREATS
FIRST STAGE RETURNING TO MOUNTAIN HOME
SECOND STAGE ON ASSIGNMENT
So; are we done? No, we are just getting started. There is one more big target that we need to look at. The Saturn moon program was too expensive, and now we are doing it again. The Space Launch System (Senate Launch System) is dictated to NASA by pork barrel politicians. How expensive is it?
Almost ANY competitive commercial design is better than this for cost. Spacex is not my favorite of course but this is a pretty good comparison.
New space people don’t want to move a six man crew to Mars for a one time mission that we can’t afford to repeat. They want to move a population to space colonization. You can’t get there from here. To throw away the booster and the national budget is not the answer. The future market will need large crews for lunar bases and space station operations. Those crews will want to have shore leave on the earth. Mining operations will want to return large volumes of precious metals and minerals in regular flight schedules. We need heavy lifters with light budgets which require heavy investment in reliable reusable vehicles.
What could impossibly tiny Exodus Aerospace offer against a program of that scale? Perhaps a preview of common sense would help. Well if we took the same fuel load, number of stages, and keep the engines reusable we may have an interesting comparison as a horizontal launch vehicle.
ADD AIR BREATHING ENGINES AND AN X-37 STYLE UPPER STAGE
AND LET COMMERCIAL SPACE PRICES PREVAIL
(ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TO ELECT SOME SENSIBLE CONGRESSMEN!)
TRUE AIRLINE EFFICIENCY IS POSSIBLE…AND CHEAPER TOO!
WHITE ROSE: THE ORBITAL AIRLINER
Well, possible and probable may be as different as elected official and honesty. For now there are a few steps between the “Skip” prototype and the manned space future. Sorry, we are NOT going to show you the next prototypes! I can reveal the prototype names though:
Highly Optimistic Prototype (HOP) model under construction
Staging Key Intermediate Prototype (SKIP) small satellite launcher
Junior Unmanned Mission Prototype (JUMP) heavy satellite launcher
Launcher Evolved Advanced Prototype (LEAP) small manned prototype
Now we’re just a hop, skip, and a jump away from one giant leap for bad acronyms!
While this looks a bit like pie in the sky, every adventure begins with one small step for man. For us it is to identify the strongest market and press in to the first flight vehicles. We are already being approached by a group with interest in the manned missions. But it is more important to get customer interest from satellite and asteroid mining missions at this stage. Satellite servicing missions are another possibility. The future will include a lot of traffic to the moon, and workers coming home on leave. Mars needs lunar fuel and construction facilities in low gravity. The road to the stars is totally dependent on reaching low earth orbit efficiently.
For routine space access this is not a solution; This is THE solution. For all the above reasons we will use the limited manpower we have to educate the customer base and deliver a true growth market to investors. This is a big market, and a big commercial opportunity; now boarding! EXODUS AEROSPACE
WINGS TO SPACE…THE WRIGHT STUFF
A REALLY BIG STEP FOR MAN...
There seems to be a lot of help out there for new space business…if you don’t want to really make a difference. But then what really would make a difference? Cube satellites, experiments, or small satellite launchers?
Elon Musk is the name that seems to threaten the industry. Reusable rockets are a promise we have been waiting for and it seems to be getting closer with vertical landings. Eventually we may see a second stage and then a capsule recovered from orbital missions. But how does Spacex compare to the X-37? Sure the X-37 throws away a booster but the orbiter returns to be reused…every time. It has had no crashes and went back to flight after two years on orbit. They just keep on working. Wings work.
So here I come with the wild idea that wings are good for climb to space, reentry, and reusability. An old guy with no credentials thinks that he might have a better idea than the guys with all the money and government funding. Can it happen? A farm boy with no credentials brought mass production to the auto industry.
Exodus Aerospace is incorporated and still has only an old man and a dog on the payroll. Volunteers have been coming and going for two years. We do have some very qualified partners who have a day job and little time to spare. Belief is there but we really need full-fledged partners. I do the office, computer designs, marketing, management, and day dreams. Reality suggests that my vision is meant for super heavy investment. That requires a great leader, team, business plan, customers, and extreme technology advantages. We can get help with most of that but a team requires people who come to work. In the beginning that means sweat equity; free work for a promise of future wealth. We lack this.
I tested models, paid patent lawyers, and produced endless design proposals. Gradually I fix the mistakes of the last design. Now our volunteers have contributed value from their greater technical and business experience. We are getting better designs and business plans but we are a long way from being ready to seek investment.
Our proposals have been aimed at low tech low speed suborbital demonstrations at first. But suborbital markets are overrated. The satellite market is the big money pool now. So we are raising the bar to make a realistic customer base and business plan for investors. That pushes us into a much higher investment requirement. The price will be very high, but why not? The returns from satellite companies are also much much higher. It makes sense to aim the development cost at the best market. Our design proposal may still be too small and too modest.
If investors are to get a return they have to dominate the competition. So we offer patents and other inventions that the competition can’t have. We also have to target much better performance than any launch system has seen before. We will deliver performance, reusable economy, and reliability that can lower insurance costs. The systems are also scalable to manned operations where comfort is also a factor. We can offer a long list of advantages but we still suffer from one disadvantage: poverty.
Investment needs a leader and a team just as much as technology and a business plan. I put all my time and money into this and I need partners who also understand sacrificial investment. I understand that I offer little to insure your investment but getting familiar with the design and the team will reveal the value here. That only happens if the team is ready to come to work.
With all the help available for business plans and incubation we still need a place for entrepreneurs to meet, dream, and scheme. I offered a Facebook group to inspire people to join in and help. Now I have added a Meetup group. We get a little help but this need serious professional credentials for business and technology.
Perhaps a big space advocacy group could host a forum for venture proposals. This is not a place for the weak hearted though; broken space ventures litter the landscape. Finding truly sacrificial makers is rare. I think that this need to meet and greet is a greater need than all the other training out there. The team is more important than all the other factors. We can expect that any venture big enough to deliver real value will need a happy crew.
I am actually asking people to move to Wheatland Wyoming to work on a new space venture. Oh this is rural America and our entertainment includes the county fair, demolition derby, and a rodeo. But it rarely includes any kind of crime, stress, or hostility. If you feel hostile go take out an elk or some rainbow trout in the mountains. You can come to work and know that your kids probably won’t be in any crime worse than painting graffiti on the freeway underpass. For now work from home or just pay us a visit. We are here for a reason, there are some great new space ventures in this area.
If you want to consider learning more about our effort our Exodus Blog and Facebook Groups offer a little running news about the venture. On Facebook you can actually jump in and comment on the news. Others in the group have made contributions over the years. But everyone is encouraged to consider joining the actual company that we are forming. New space is a participation sport, not a spectator sport.