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THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM?

September 22, 2011

One man alone against all the wisdom of the aerospace community?  Actually the community keeps dusting off the old horizontal launch ideas for over fifty years now.  Someone out there rules this out, and someone else reconsiders it.  I think we have to deal with the atmosphere on the way to and from space.  We should keep an open mind to all soultions.

Aero and space are not always talking to each other.  Fortunately there are still individuals who seek the best possible applications and try them in new combinations.  That yields progress for everyone.  What didn’t work yesterday may open up tomorrow, so we keep seeking.

I do not have all the answers, but I may have some of the questions.  Should we evaluate this path again with new techniques?  Some of you have answers if you are willing to invest time to do the math.  Others have answers without being concerned about validating those answers.  I hope to draw contributions that will be proven in flight.

Henry Ford was not an engineer, but he was a farm boy with serious mechanical aptitude.  He had sense enough to hire engineers, and knew where their talent would help.  Elon Musk must have located some talented help too.  They are getting results, and we should be able to get more results in the future.  I don’t have the assets of Elon Musk but some of you need work as much as I do.  We can start investigations while a business plan develops.  There is a way to be content with small steps of growth.  Jeff Greason and Xcor have been doing steady growth with patience and sacrifice.  He warns us not to seek instant wealth.

So if you want to have fun or offer a better mouse trap we can examine the possibilities.  What does Horizontal in-line staging offer that vertical launch operations do not?  Orbital Sciences Pegasus patent offers a lot of enthusiasm for horizontal launch.  It seems like the inclined plane is an obvious aid to lift a large mass.  Drag is a parasite, and wings are extra mass to lift though.  Even Orbital Sciences is using vertical launch for their newest launchers.  They could probably answer a lot of my questions.

The Pegaus was not a manned craft, and had no use for wings on reentry.  The Sierra Nevada Dream Chaser hopes to use wings for reentry from a vertical launch.  This is proven NASA design, borrowed from the Russians.  the Space Shuttle’s problems should not cause us to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Wings are good to come home on.  Just ask the airline passerngers who landed in the Hudson River!  Wings are good for coming home as well as for going away.

Using a runway is a comfortable way to board passengers, as opposed to being strapped in to a vertical seat.  Commercial travelers may not appreciate waiting for a launch hold while being strapped in either.  We are familiar with airline operations, and it may be easier to sell a comfortable system.

In time of war or terrorist activity, a fixed vertical launch facility is a big target for attack.  Being dependant on a permanent facility is a weakness exposed to natural disasters as well.  Airports offer multiple landing sites and flexible launch trajectories.

It is not necessary to start with an orbital launcher if suborbital services are of value.  Airline or cargo routes may be able to use suborbital flight to go supersonic without the usual boom over land.  The U.S. Marines would like to invade from space as well.  There are markets for smaller versions of this system.  In fact space is not a requirement at all.

NASA is looking for ways to make commercial jet travel more efficient.  If we watch bombers or tankers we see an epic effort to get these big payloads airborne.  Bombers often have to be refuled after they get airborne.  With a boost they can make the cruise on a full tank.  Large commercial jets need big fuel tanks and big engines to get to altitude.  If we offer a booster stage, these long range aircraft can get a free boost and operate with smaller fuel tanks and engines.  We use aircraft to launch gliders now, and our in-line staging makes the union for greater safety.  Airliners can be small fuel efficient craft that reduce cost and their carbon footprint.  Perhaps a Hydrogen and LOX booster could lower that carbon print even more, with only water emissions.

This idea could be demonstrated on a biz jet, possibly even a supersopnic or suborbital variant.  A few corporate buyers can still consider this a good investment, especially if it can also deliver time sensitive cargo quickly.  Perhaps this could be the DC1 version of our venture.  An unmanned version could be a cruise missile that needs a little less fuel and mass to meet its mission range.

The aircraft and dreams are getting a bit smaller, but no less valid.  We are already offering partnerships to build model airplanes and flight simulator programs.  Components needed for this prototype will begin to challenge the systems available to model builders today.  We will be providing links to new products as they become available.  Perhaps some of you have designs in mind, and want to use the CAD software I am using.  I can provide models of servos and landing gear in this formant, or iges parasolids.  Hey I am for sale!  So is Alibre, for under $200:  http://www.alibre.com/

Our prototype may be ready to market once we get everything working.  What better way to evaluate a concept than to build and fly it?  Our first radio controlled model revealed that my design is conservative on strength, but a bit much on weight.  It survived a vertical dive with little damage.  These lessons will evolve a new design and have paved the way with lessons learned.  It was fun to build, fly, and revise.  It was kind of ugly too, though not yet a match for some of Rutan’s airplanes!

Second Stage Evolution

Talon, son of Moya

Fly Talon, Fly!

Me llamo Don Quixote, a su servidor!

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