Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Up To Orbit...

So, for Christmas, the Parents gave me a copy of The Rocket Company, and this got me into thinking of ideas. Taking the idea of Space Ship One, the concept would use a jet-powered aircraft that gets the reuseable platform up to high altitude, then the platform launches into orbit.

The "platform" would be a lifting body design like the X-24, built around a flat "belly" that would only have opening for the landing gears. Unlike the shuttle, it would not use tiles (which, for all of their capability, they are mechanically fragile-NOT good for something that needs a fast turn around. The belly would have semi-mechanical cooling in the form of water from the fuel cells used to power the vehicle-water injected into the belly heat shield, and allowed to evaporate/vaporize and carry heat away. Maybe a folding solar array, too. The fuel tanks-namely the kerosene/JP-4 used for the rockets and jet engines (wait for it...) would also be used for cooling.

Besides the flight crew (two or three), the platform would incorporate either a cargo bay with top hatch for unloading payloads (big enough to carry a Destiny Lab Module-sized payload-fifteen tons, 9 meters long and 5 meters wide), or people (ten? twelve?) to a desitnation like the ISS. Two rocket motors for reaching orbit and deorbiting, and two jet engines (with the air intakes on top) for when the platform is in the atmosphere-so it can abort a landing and orbit a few times around the landing strip.

One of the biggest things about this platform is that you can have multiple orbiters-and only a few lifting platforms. And, turn around time is vital-the belly plate is designed to be a single-piece unit that can be removed by releasing some bolts, so the heat shield can be rapidly replaced between missions. Everything else should be easy to repair and maintain-and upgrade.

Other ideas for the platform...
  • Build a launching catapult...catapult that gets the platform up to speed, winged booster that gets the plaform altitude and flies back on it's own (and unmanned), a disposable booster than gains altitude, and the rest is history.
  • Offer a platform fitted with luxury options for rich executives and government leaders-by suborbital operation, it can reach anywhere in the world in four hours. The military, too...
So, name it Sparrow?

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