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September 21, 2011

Tigre Suborbital Space Plane

In the last blog you see a progression of design evolution from fuselage and wing forms to blended wing body types.  Why use these unknown shapes for a space launch system?

Most space planes have cylindrical fuselages for fuel tanks.  The fuselage offers little or no lift to justify its added frontal area and drag.  Flying wing and lifting fuselage forms have been advocated by pioneering designers for decades now.  Northrop and the Horten brothers favored flying wings.  Burnelli offered airfoil shaped fuselages.  These offer interior volume without the drag of a fuselage.

Supersonic aircraft have thin fast wings but these are vulnerable to heat damage on reentry from space.  All current space planes and bodies feature soft rounded leading edges to dissapate heat.  Since we need soft features, big fat wings are not a disadvantage if we stay subsonic at lower elevations.  The wings must be large to fly from a runway, so using every advantage is critical to lower vehicle mass.

Thick bodies and wings offer a deep section that permits light strong vertical web or truss structures.  The Rockwell Delta Spanloader bomber was proposed for just this strength and light weight.

Delta Spanloader Bomber

For suborbital use a good compromise for takeoff and reentry is a challenge to balance.  The Tigre image above may be too short of wings, while a craft intended only for reentry may be fine with stub wings.


When considering orbital launch the first stage may be biased to longer wings if they are capable of taking the forces of the rocket powered portion of the flight.  For this the Boeing Blended Wing Body is a good role model.  They are pleased with the aerodynamic efficiency of these design types.

Boeing Blended Wing Body

For an orbital reentry vehicle we need to compromise some flight ability with the stub wings for added safety for extended cross range flight.  Commercial flights may not be able to stay on orbit to avoid bad weather, so we need to be able to find alternative landing fields.  This lifting body evolved into the X-38 and shows a form similar to our proposals.  Notice how well toasted this flight vehicle is now!

Prime Lifting Body

We may increase our mass penalty more by providing an escape capsule similar to this.  It will have limited flight, and would land by parachute.  If we must carry less payload, we hope to recover more payload alive after anamolies in flight.

If you merge these last three forms you may see something like this.


The White Rose; Hans und Sophie

The airfoil is based on the X-34, but blended over varied chord lengths for the overall plan form similar to the space shuttle.  Jet engine nacelles may vary in size, as here to fit ducted fan motors.  Estes model rocket motors are also installed for our scale demonstration flights.



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