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Old 12-13-2011, 09:52 PM   #16
Hielor
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Originally Posted by anemazoso View Post
 From the Horizontal Launch study posted by Wood above:


Notice the bold portion. The emphasis is mine. AT $9600 per pound to orbit this sounds like this concept is a non starter.
That seems rather high...
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Old 12-13-2011, 10:19 PM   #18
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It will probably have the same crash rate as windows... if the design works... great!
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Old 12-13-2011, 10:33 PM   #19
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I don't think this concept will ever beat the F9 if/when it is fully reusable, heck even partially reusable would still beat Stratolaunch price. That huge aircraft is going to cost an arm and a leg to build and maintain and it will serve a very small market in it's payload class.
SpaceX achieving viable reusability isn't a certainty yet, at all...

How often does the An-225 fly? Even a relatively low flight rate could be very helpful in amortising the cost of the mothership.

But, it isn't like this is a infrastructure-less system. You still need to integrate and prepare the vehicle. You still need to integrate the payload to the vehicle... transport the vehicle to the 'launch site' (aircraft), fuel it, etc.

Those things will cost too. If the integration facility for example is seperate from those SpaceX has at LC-40, it will have its own totally new overhead.

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1. Will it cost less to produce a smaller booster like a Falcon 5?
Depends on what you mean by 'smaller'; the removal of 4 engines should help a good deal since propulsion is a major cost item (plus you still get good economies of scale combined with F9 production, etc).

I have a hunch that reducing the number of tank barrel sections won't reduce cost that much, and you still have other things (avionics, seperation systems, etc) to deal with. They'll probably be shared with F9, which means they won't be smaller... the major price reduction factor for those components would be higher production rates.

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2. If so is it enough to reduce the cost proportionately to the reduce payload mass?
That is a very good question.

Perhaps the cost/capability change of this compared to a ground-launched F5 is enough to make it work...

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3. In the press conference Burt said that the air-launch concept improves performance by about 5%. Is that enough to justify the cost of building and operating one of the largest aircraft in the world?
Burt Rutan gets paid for it. What do you think he will say?



Maybe a large portion of the business case is the terrestrial air payload market.

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4. If a booster costs X, and a launch aircraft cost Y, why would it be better to
to add X+Y? Doesn't it have to be greater than X alone?

4b. Or is it the reduced costs of launching from a dedicated pad?
There are two parts to launch costs: vehicle hardware costs, and launch facility costs (hardware costs are actually dependant on the cost of the facility that produces the hardware, but for simplicity sake we can seperate the two).

The idea is that the cost of the "launch facility" with the airlaunch is lower than the cost of a traditional launch facility.

Of course, the aircraft launch facility is now seperate from the other launch facility (SLC-40/SLC-4). Which means that the other facility is used less and its costs are not shared as much.

So there is potential that this offers less oppurtunity for SpaceX to decrease their cost per launch over all systems, including F9 and eventually FH.

There could be another rationale here: SpaceX is a contractor, not an investor. They just get money for the booster/any preperations that need to be peformed with it, and also the development work involved.

It is a way for them to make a profit. A profit that they can then use toward their numerous development projects, such as crewed Dragon, FH, and reusability/Grasshopper. The emphasis for SpaceX here might not be much about lowering their prices and attracting a bigger market, but just getting extra cash.

That said, maybe it isn't the right rationale... maybe Stratolaunch fails to attract enough customers and is a loss, maybe launching more rockets is more advantageous to SpaceX... who knows.

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AT $9600 per pound to orbit this sounds like this concept is a non starter.
Why is it so shocking? Not all systems have to reduce launch costs by one to two orders of magnitude.

That said, I think it would make more sense if it were $9600 a kilogram for a modern system. But even the EELVs don't reach this at their current flight rates.

Last edited by T.Neo; 12-13-2011 at 10:35 PM.
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:29 AM   #21
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Getting some serious SpaceShipTwo (+WhiteKnightTwo) vibes from this. As well as Orbital's Pegasus.

Oh, I get it now, because Paul G. Allen helped on SpaceShipOne.

Last edited by Pipcard; 12-14-2011 at 05:36 AM.
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Old 12-14-2011, 05:36 AM   #22
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Sure looks like fun.

Though, 30,000 feet and cruising speed is a drop in the bucket compared to orbital speed, it hardly seems worth the effort compared to regular launch.
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Old 12-14-2011, 06:53 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wood View Post
 This reminds me of a very interesting US Air Force air-launcher study that I read a while back. It mentioned super White Knight style carrier aircraft and SpaceX liquid rockets, among others. I'll try to find it...

Found it! (pdf)
DARPA wants this type of airlaunch system but for small payloads, ca. 100 pounds:

Article:
US Military Wants to Launch Satellites from Airplanes.
Date: 07 November 2011 Time: 12:08 PM ET
http://www.space.com/13529-darpa-mil...-launches.html

Curiously they also expect it to fly by 2015. For launches this small it might work to use a WhiteKnight1 or WhiteKnight2 for the carrier aircraft, and Falcon 1 or Falcon 1e for the rocket.

Bob Clark
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Old 12-14-2011, 11:40 AM   #24
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The video does not show it, but I know that they were talking about a 5 engine rocket by spacex. Does this mean that Falcon 5 is re-born?
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Old 12-14-2011, 12:46 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by Ark View Post
 Sure looks like fun.

Though, 30,000 feet and cruising speed is a drop in the bucket compared to orbital speed, it hardly seems worth the effort compared to regular launch.
I think it's much more about the atmosphere and its pressure.

By the way, you could "launch" from a point 2000 miles south of the US, so even if you assemble the rocket+aircraft at the Cape you could launch from a latitude comparable to Kourou, another few percent more payload.
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Old 12-14-2011, 01:55 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by MattBaker View Post
 I think it's much more about the atmosphere and its pressure.

By the way, you could "launch" from a point 2000 miles south of the US, so even if you assemble the rocket+aircraft at the Cape you could launch from a latitude comparable to Kourou, another few percent more payload.
That's true, depending on range you could reach a much more advantageous launch position, without the challenge of towing a barge out there.

But, still, 30,000 feet is reached in what, the first 20 seconds of burn time? It can't be worth R&D for a whole carrier vehicle just to save 20 seconds of fuel.
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Old 12-14-2011, 02:58 PM   #27
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Those were my thoughts as well, Ark. The main advantage of such a system are: 1) ability to travel to optimal global launch position for desired inclination; and 2) perhaps see lower facility costs by not requiring a fixed dedicated vertical launch complex.

I also don't see how such a system will provide much benefit over traditional methods at this point, or make it significantly easier to increase launch rates and ultimately lower launch costs.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:21 PM   #28
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So how exactly is this different from more classical air-launch concepts? Appart from that it doesn't look nearly as cool, and that I don't quite see how that plane could do anything that a third stage couldn't do a lot better. It can't get very high for launch, and it can't reach significant velocities to help with orbital insertion...

Alright, it's more flexible... So if it ends up being slightly cheaper too, that's an incremental progress, I guess.

Last edited by jedidia; 12-14-2011 at 03:24 PM.
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Old 12-14-2011, 03:35 PM   #29
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(Source: SPACE.com)
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Old 12-14-2011, 04:03 PM   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cymrych View Post
 Those were my thoughts as well, Ark. The main advantage of such a system are: 1) ability to travel to optimal global launch position for desired inclination; and 2) perhaps see lower facility costs by not requiring a fixed dedicated vertical launch complex.

I also don't see how such a system will provide much benefit over traditional methods at this point, or make it significantly easier to increase launch rates and ultimately lower launch costs.
You might gain flexibility and save infrastructure costs by ditching the stationary launch platform, but what are the requirements for launching and landing this monster? Extremely long, reinforced runways? Commercial airports are obviously out of the question, but what military fields can possibly support this thing?

Boosters can be flown in to assemble and launch from anywhere, but what about the gear to mate everything together? The rig to bolt this thing to the carrier plane is a massive piece of machinery by itself.

Whatever the challenges, I'd still like to see this thing fly. The US hasn't had any colossal aerospace engineering like this in a long time. Plus, anything that has a good chance of making the old vertical launch cartel obsolete is a good thing in my book.
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