Skip to content


March 31, 2017


GOOD PLANS OFTEN EXPERIENCE A BUMP IN THE NIGHT.  Even near the earth aviation does on occasion experience a bump in the night.  My favorite story involves a flock of geese.

“US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320-214 which, three minutes after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canada geese just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently lost all engine power. Unable to reach any airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries.  The pilot in command was 57-year-old Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, a former fighter pilot who had been an airline pilot since leaving the United States Air Force in 1980.”  Wikipedia

I love this story because Captain Sullenberger is a true “sky pilot”.  He had them praying, baptized, and saved all in one thrilling ride!  Unfortunately not every collision has a happy ending, as we saw with the space shuttle.  That orbiter never had a problem that wasn’t associated with the booster stage.  With in-line staging we literally leave the booster problems behind us.  In an emergency we can separate the stages and leave the problems far behind us.


We had time to model the skins, structures, tanks, and other features in more detail now.  Soon we will be able to detail payload accommodation and services.



We did look at one way that we might avoid a bump in the night for a blind unmanned spacecraft.  To augment guidance systems we hope to inform ground control with cameras.  This installation is an opportunity to challenge vendors too.  We propose to use a Surmet Alon brand Aluminum Oxynitride dome for this installation.  It has a “Star Trek” connection for being called “transparent aluminum”.  But it has a far more stellar performance than aluminum in optical, impact, and thermal durability.


In the auto industry we had a term, “crush zone” which suggested some cushion for impact.  In space any small object, even plastic foam, can be a lethal weapon.  Danger comes from birds, space debris, collisions, or debris from our own vehicle.  For our mission these impacts may go unnoticed until thermal issues begin to invade your structures.  During reentry it is too late to do a space walk to make repairs.  Our crush zone may put other vendors to work.

Ultramet offers an idea for thermal protection that we may expand on.  Using carbon foam as a lightweight filler, aerogel is added to improve thermal protection.  We would enlarge this in the nose and wing caps to provide a thermal “crush zone”.  A variety of thermal protection systems may cover the outer shell, including tiles, ceramic composites, or carbon-carbon.  But if damaged, these may be fragile shells.  A deeper zone of carbon foam is light, but may slow incoming plasma and gasses.  Some penetration is tolerable in this material.

A second inner wall of the wing cap is a solid barrier, but it may not tolerate a prolonged battle.  To relieve this, there is an open passage, a tunnel through the carbon foam.  That opening encourages the flow to pass to the rear of the wing cap.  At that point it is vented ahead of the elevons.  If the fairings are still in place, they would be ejected to allow the gasses to vent.









It’s not enough to consider reusability as a means to profit.  Insurance costs could be reduced with this though.  The added reliability that this will deliver must be part of planning our future.  Going back to Apollo is not a road to the future.  This is not just a launcher, it is an orbiting service station.  As the X-37 has demonstrated, a fly-back space station has far more utility than a throw away system.  And we cannot afford to postpone affordable access to low earth orbit.  No serious exploration or mining of the solar system can go ahead without sensible access to low earth orbit.  Next week we can look at the potential to deliver services never before available to us.


From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: