Stratolaunch

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Creative

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http://www.gizmag.com/stratolaunch-systems-air-launch/20839/

...
Allen and Rutan's new company, Stratolaunch Systems, will be developing a mobile launch system consisting of three main components.
The first will be an enormous carrier aircraft, made by Rutan's company Scaled Composites. With a wingspan of over 380 feet (116 m), packing six 747 engines and weighing over 1.2 million pounds (544,311 kg), it will be the largest aircraft ever flown.
Mounted underneath the aircraft's SpaceShipOne-like twin bodies will be a multi-stage booster, which in turn will be attached to the spacecraft. Built by Space Exploration Technologies, this 490,000-pound (222,260-kg) booster will fire once it has been released from the aircraft, carrying the spacecraft into orbit.
The third component of the system will be a mating and integration system, which will allow the aircraft to safely carry and release its payload. It will be designed by aerospace engineering firm Dynetics.
The aircraft will be constructed in a dedicated Stratolaunch hangar, which will reportedly soon be under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Hopefully, the first flight should be taking place within five years. According to the company, its air-launch-to-orbit system "will mean lower costs, greater safety, and more flexibility and responsiveness than is possible today with ground-based systems." Turnaround time between launches should also be much shorter than is currently possible, allowing for a larger number of launches within a given time period.
Once built, the aircraft will likely operate out of a large airport/spaceport, such as the Kennedy Space Center. It will require a runway at least 12,000 feet (3,658 m) long, and be able to fly to launch points up to 1,300 nautical miles (2,407 km) away...
http://stratolaunchsystems.com/
 

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AeroFranz

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A couple of thoughts:


One, depending on what the wheeltrack ends up being on the mothership, it might be hard to find suitable airports. But then again you probably only need few airports since you can cruise to a designated launch area thousands of miles away.


Two, didn't Rutan say sometime ago something to the effect that Scaled had pioneered construction techniques for the WK1 wing spar that was "scalable to very large aircraft"? I guess this would be it.


There are plenty of technical papers in the AIAA archives describing twin fuselage motherships, frequently using a pair of siamese-twins 747s or even C-5s. Seems like adapting two existing airframes would be cheaper than a clean-sheet design.
 

bobbymike

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Wow what a big booster it is carrying (relatively speaking for air launching), roughly 2.5X the weight/size of a Peacekeeper ICBM. Wonder what the payload to LEO is?
 
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bobbymike said:
Wow what a big booster it is carrying (relatively speaking for air launching), roughly 2.5X the weight/size of a Peacekeeper ICBM. Wonder what the payload to LEO is?
The Stratolaunch video on the website states that the booster can deliver 13,500 lbs. to Low Earth Orbit.

Video link on facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=202596223158748

This is an interesting concept. The launch vehicle is certainly quite massive and I can only imagine the sudden "bounce" the craft may experience upon jettisoning the booster. However given the shear mass of the vehicle that may not be too much of an issue. I would certainly like to see this project at least attempted.
 

Lauge

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bobbymike said:
Wow what a big booster it is carrying.....
"Is that a big booster, or are you just happy to see me?"

Sorry - couldn' resist. Back to topic, promise ;D

Regards & all, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all and sundry,

Thomas L. Nielsen
Luxembourg
 

Mat Parry

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AAAdrone said:
The Stratolaunch video on the website states that the booster can deliver 13,500 lbs. to Low Earth Orbit.
Could be useful for boosting an X37B ;) still, the hanger for this beast would be truly gigantic!
 

Hobbes

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The booster looks like it has a Dragon capsule on top, which would put its diameter at 3.6 m (same as the Falcon 9). A few years ago, SpaceX had plans to create a 'Falcon 5', which this design looks similar to. It'd be fairly easy to adapt the Falcon 9 design (just delete 4 engines, change the first stage length), leaving the wing as the only new development.
 

GeorgeA

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AeroFranz said:
There are plenty of technical papers in the AIAA archives describing twin fuselage motherships, frequently using a pair of siamese-twins 747s or even C-5s. Seems like adapting two existing airframes would be cheaper than a clean-sheet design.

The nose of the piloted fuselage looks very much like a 747, but I don't know if it's an actual 747 forward section. Someone on NSF (yeah I know) claims it's using 747 landing gear. The engines are of course off-the-shelf, and I would assume the avionics are as well.
 

Stargazer2006

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GeorgeA said:
AeroFranz said:
There are plenty of technical papers in the AIAA archives describing twin fuselage motherships, frequently using a pair of siamese-twins 747s or even C-5s. Seems like adapting two existing airframes would be cheaper than a clean-sheet design.

The nose of the piloted fuselage looks very much like a 747, but I don't know if it's an actual 747 forward section. Someone on NSF (yeah I know) claims it's using 747 landing gear. The engines are of course off-the-shelf, and I would assume the avionics are as well.
According to the promotional videos, the engines will be standard 747 types. As for the fuselage, cross section clearly shows it to be much slimmer than that of the 747, so I guess it's only passing resemblance.
 

AeroFranz

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Well, I'm sure Scaled is up to the task. Building a very large aircraft is not without its problems but it's been done before, unlike everything else they managed to do since 2004, which had no precedents. I worry more about the other components of the system and financial backing than Scaled's ability to pull this off.
 

Gridlock

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It looks like Damien Hirst and Howard Hughes got drunk together..


I wouldn't like to try landing one in a strong crosswind, that's for sure. Although it does have mass on its side. I wonder how long before the PLA buy a Mriya and a chainsaw? :)
 

Hobbes

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AeroFranz said:
There are plenty of technical papers in the AIAA archives describing twin fuselage motherships, frequently using a pair of siamese-twins 747s or even C-5s. Seems like adapting two existing airframes would be cheaper than a clean-sheet design.
Buying two 747s isn't going to be cheap. For the several hundred M$ they'll cost, you can do an awful lot of design and fabrication work. Your clean-sheet design will also have much lighter fuselages, so it'll have more payload.
 

Stargazer2006

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Hobbes said:
Your clean-sheet design will also have much lighter fuselages, so it'll have more payload.
Yes, composite materials will be part of the new aircraft's construction. None of it existed at the time the C-5 and 747 were developed and built.
 

Hobbes

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Not only that; the fuselages can be designed for a payload of 0 kg; as far as I can see they only exist to provide a place for the undercarriage, crew and tailplanes. Not a floor that can carry 100 tons.
 

blackstar

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AeroFranz said:
Well, I'm sure Scaled is up to the task. Building a very large aircraft is not without its problems but it's been done before, unlike everything else they managed to do since 2004, which had no precedents. I worry more about the other components of the system and financial backing than Scaled's ability to pull this off.
What is the largest aircraft built by Scaled?
 

Hobbes

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Probably White Knight 2
General characteristics

Payload: 17,000 kg (37,000 lb)[24] to 50000 ft.; 200 kg satellite to LEO[25] (test) Length: 24 m (79 ft) Wingspan: 43 m (141 ft) Height: () Powerplant: 4 × Pratt & Whitney Canada PW308 turbofanPerformance Service ceiling: 21.3 km (70,000 ft [24])
(from Wikipedia)
 

Byeman

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Hobbes said:
Not only that; the fuselages can be designed for a payload of 0 kg; as far as I can see they only exist to provide a place for the undercarriage, crew and tailplanes. Not a floor that can carry 100 tons.
No, they will be carrying LOX tanks for topping off the booster
 

AeroFranz

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Hobbes said:
Buying two 747s isn't going to be cheap. For the several hundred M$ they'll cost, you can do an awful lot of design and fabrication work. Your clean-sheet design will also have much lighter fuselages, so it'll have more payload.
All previous points made about superiority of clean sheet design duly noted and for the most part agreed on. I do not think however on the cost issue. Who says you have to buy new 747s? IIRC, the NASA B-52 mothership had the lowest flight hours of ANY B-52 in the air force, so airframe life is not an issue. As a matter of fact, a few years back I spent an evening at the Voyager diner at the Mojave airport a couple of doors down from Scaled. From there I could see dozens of airliners parked out in the desert for lack of use (9/11? economic downturn?), I can't remember if there were 747s...but you get my point, I am sure that there are 747s to be had, and I don't think you can build a new 1.2M pounds design for less than it takes to buy two used 747s that benefitted from ~50 years of high volume production.
The catch in using low wing aircraft lies in having to hang the payload underneath the wing, hence the better suitability of C-5s. Hell, not all the remaining air force C-5s are being converted to -Ms, maybe you can get a deal on a couple that are redundant. Too bad the old models are down half the time for maintenance.
 

mboeller

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IMHO,
using 2 747 fuselages would not work because of the cantilever-design with the wing below the fuselage.
Redesigning the fuselage with a wing above the fuselage would cost more than a clean-sheet design.
 
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AAAdrone

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mboeller said:
IMHO,
using 2 747 fuselages would not work because of the cantilever-design with the wing below the fuselage.
Redesigning the fuselage with a wing above the fuselage would cost more than a clean-sheet design.
I don't really think those are 747 fuselages. Like Stargazer said the cross-section of each fuselage appears to be too small for them to be made by sticking two 747s together. The fuselages might be designed from the ground up to look conveniently similar to a 747 though. The engines and supposedly the landing gear and possibly even the avionics will also be taken from the 747. Basically the general superstructure is clean-sheet but the more intricate and complex parts are off the shelf if my beliefs are correct.
 

Gridlock

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If you're working largely in CFD then is there an economy available in utilising well-understood and -modelled airframe shapes? My guess.


In the modelling and therefore final shape I mean, not that it's made of 747.
 

blackstar

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There's a good assessment here:

http://www.newspacejournal.com/2011/12/15/stratolaunch-a-contrarian-view/

I think this is the key point:

"Instead, I’ve been pondering this question: what problem does this system solve? That’s the key question for any business venture, not just a launch vehicle company. What can Stratolaunch do that others can’t do, or do as well or as cheaply? Air launch has its advantages, but also carries with it some disadvantages and other issues. That, coupled with what the company has released about its technical capabilities, leads me to wonder if the Stratolaunch system will really be that competitive over more conventional launch systems in service or under active development today."

However, look also at his discussion of the aircraft cost. This is going to be an expensive aircraft. Standard cost models indicate that it will cost billions.

And I think it is also worth asking if it is realistic for Scaled to build such a large aircraft. Scaled builds unique, one-of-a-kind, relatively small and low-powered/low-performance vehicles. This aircraft is of a size that only the major aerospace contractors have experience with.

I think this is a vanity project and it's going to fold in a few years. It certainly doesn't serve any part of the over-saturated launch market that requires these unique capabilities.
 

RanulfC

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Ok, what's "known" so far:

- StratoLaunch has already purchased two (2) used 747s they will be stripping for landing gear and avionics. (They said yesterday they are looking to purchase a third for parts also)

- Fuselage and wings will be all "new" build, the main reason the cockpit area looks like that of a 747 is because they plan to use the layour and controls from a 747.

- Carrier Aircraft will be runway limited to at least 12,000ft runways, however it will NOT be a "dedicated" Air-Launch-Vehicle but will be capable of carrying out-sized and specialty cargo with a 9,200 mile range

- The rocket will be a "varient" of the Falcon-9 with 5 engines in the first stage, 1 engine in the second stage. @13,500lbs to LEO delivery

- The video (here:https://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=202596223158748) shows the whole flight profile.

- Both Space-X (booster) and Scaled (Carrier Aircraft) are on-board as "contractors" only. Allen is listed as an "investor" while Rutan is on the "board" as well as Mike Griffin (yes that one :) )

Pretty much everything else is speculation and a lot of it. According to the press conference Allen ONLY decided to release as much as he has because construction of the hanger in Mojave is supposed to start soon and that's something they would not be able to "hide" from competitiors.

Oh and for the general FYI I found this paper at NTRS which gives some pretty good information on the hows and whys of Air Launch To Orbit economics:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20070002822_2007001607.pdf

Randy
 
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RGClark

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blackstar said:
There's a good assessment here:

http://www.newspacejournal.com/2011/12/15/stratolaunch-a-contrarian-view/

I think this is the key point:

"Instead, I’ve been pondering this question: what problem does this system solve? That’s the key question for any business venture, not just a launch vehicle company. What can Stratolaunch do that others can’t do, or do as well or as cheaply? Air launch has its advantages, but also carries with it some disadvantages and other issues. That, coupled with what the company has released about its technical capabilities, leads me to wonder if the Stratolaunch system will really be that competitive over more conventional launch systems in service or under active development today."
However, look also at his discussion of the aircraft cost. This is going to be an expensive aircraft. Standard cost models indicate that it will cost billions.
...
DARPA with its Alasa program 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-military-airplane-satellite-launches.html

Curiously, they also expect it to fly by 2015. For launches this small, it might work to use a WhiteKnight2 for the carrier aircraft, and a Falcon 1 first stage as the rocket, perhaps shrunk slightly to fit within the carrying capacity of the WhiteKnight2.
DARPA is basing the feasibility of such air launch systems on this study:

http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20110015353_2011016245.pdf

A focus of this study was on systems intermediate in size between DARPA's Alasa and Stratolaunch, with for example the carrier aircraft being 747-sized and the rocket being of Falcon 1e size.


Bob Clark
 
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RGClark

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RanulfC said:
...
Oh and for the general FYI I found this paper at NTRS which gives some pretty good information on the hows and whys of Air Launch To Orbit economics:
http://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20070002822_2007001607.pdf

Randy
The benefits of air launch go beyond just the speed and altitude attained. This is discussed in this report:

Air Launching Earth-to-Orbit Vehicles: Delta V gains from Launch Conditions and Vehicle Aerodynamics.
Nesrin Sarigul-Klijn University of California, Davis, CA, UNITED STATES; Chris Noel University of California, Davis, CA, UNITED STATES; Marti Sarigul-Klijn University of California, Davis, CA, UNITED STATES
AIAA-2004-872
42nd AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting and Exhibit, Reno, Nevada, Jan. 5-8, 2004
http://pdf.aiaa.org/preview/CDReadyMASM04_665/PV2004_872.pdf [first page only]

The conclusions are summarized in this online lecture:

A.4.2.1 Launch Method Analysis (Air Launch).
"For a launch from a carrier aircraft, the aircraft speed will directly reduce the Δv required to attain LEO. However, the majority of the Δv benefit from an air launch results
from the angle of attack of the vehicle during the release of the rocket. An
ideal angle is somewhere of the order of 25° to 30°.
"A study by Klijn et al. concluded that at an altitude of 15250m, a rocket launch with the
carrier vehicle having a zero launch velocity at an angle of attack of 0° to
the horizontal experienced a Δv benefit of approximately 600 m/s while a launch
at a velocity of 340m/s at the same altitude and angle of attack resulted in a
Δv benefit of approximately 900m/s. The zero launch velocity situations can
be used to represent the launch from a balloon as it has no horizontal velocity.
"Furthermore, by increasing the angle of attack of the carrier vehicle to
30° and launching at 340m/s, a Δv gain of approximately 1100m/s
was obtained. Increasing the launch velocity to 681m/s and 1021m/s produced a
Δv gain of 1600m/s and 2000m/s respectively.
"From this comparison, it can be seen that in terms of the Δv gain, an airlaunch is
superior to a ground launch. As the size of the vehicle decreases, this superiority
will have a larger effect due to the increased effective drag on the vehicle."
https://engineering.purdue.edu/AAE/Academics/Courses/aae450/2008/spring/report_archive/reportuploads/appendix/propulsion/A.4.2.1%20Launch%20Method%20Analysis%20(Air%20Launch).doc

A speed of 340 m/s is a little more than Mach 1, while subsonic transport aircraft typically cruise
slightly below Mach 1. So the delta-V saving could still be in the range of 1,000 m/s with air launch,
a significant savings by the rocket equation.


Bob Clark
 

ouroboros

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Smart to make the carrier aircraft capable of carrying outsize cargo (via a cargo pod?) as a revenue generator when not busy throwing rockets, much like the AN-225. There is also the potential market for sale/lease to other air launchable systems (XCOR Lynx? Possible B-52 replacement for NASA for air drop experiments? DARPA and friends?) but the big takeaway is the listed range of 1300nm. This underlies a possible launch approach of going uprange, launching, and recovering the first stage of the rocket via a "glide forward" methodology rather than the traditional "boost back" profile, allowing recovery of all assets at the same airport/spaceport and not taking a large deltaV hit on the rocket for the recovery boost.

The rocket concept is shown with a Pegasus style wing (is this truly necessary for the trajectory?), but nothing is stopping SpaceX from adapting their Hopper VTVL related technologies they are developing for the recoverable Falcon 9 first stage to do a vertical propulsive landing for stage recovery.
 

Stargazer2006

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I don't deem it irrational to build a carrier aircraft that can carry just about any kind of self-propelled vehicle to high altitudes. Programs like Pegasus, X-37, X-38, X-40, X-43, X-51, SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo, XCOR Lynx, and many others have relied or will rely on this capability. I wouldn't be surprised if the operating and maintenance costs of a Stratolauncher were distinctly smaller than those of a Stratofortress. Having one platform that can fit the bill with less costs and operate from US ground, especially now that NASA itself is using foreign launch sites for its own programs, seems pretty seems sensible to me.
 

Byeman

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ouroboros said:
This underlies a possible launch approach of going uprange, launching, and recovering the first stage of the rocket via a "glide forward" methodology rather than the traditional "boost back" profile, allowing recovery of all assets at the same airport/spaceport and not taking a large deltaV hit on the rocket for the recovery boost.
Huh? Yeah, right. How many airports do you think can support this aircraft? There are just couple that can be used to "launch" the configuration.
 

Stargazer2006

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Byeman said:
ouroboros said:
This underlies a possible launch approach of going uprange, launching, and recovering the first stage of the rocket via a "glide forward" methodology rather than the traditional "boost back" profile, allowing recovery of all assets at the same airport/spaceport and not taking a large deltaV hit on the rocket for the recovery boost.
Huh? Yeah, right. How many airports do you think can support this aircraft? There are just couple that can be used to "launch" the configuration.
Also remember that Mojave is now tagged as a spaceport since the SpaceShip venture was started. I am sure that they will make sure the Stratolauncher can take off from and land there.
 

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One outré thought: If those twin hulls carry LOX to top-off the rocket's cryo-tank, there's a slim chance that the aircraft could be fitted with 'jato' nozzles burning kerosene / LOX, reducing the runway requirements at the expense of some range...


Uh, would water-injection, per Harriers' Pegasus engine help ?
 

blackstar

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Byeman said:
ouroboros said:
This underlies a possible launch approach of going uprange, launching, and recovering the first stage of the rocket via a "glide forward" methodology rather than the traditional "boost back" profile, allowing recovery of all assets at the same airport/spaceport and not taking a large deltaV hit on the rocket for the recovery boost.
Huh? Yeah, right. How many airports do you think can support this aircraft? There are just couple that can be used to "launch" the configuration.
Stop being so pessimistic. This can easily be made to work if you simply add a few more completely unproven technologies to the mix as well. If you use a VASIMR engine, powered by a Helium-3 fusion reactor, with guidance provided by space based solar power, it all becomes possible.
 

GeorgeA

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blackstar said:
Stop being so pessimistic. This can easily be made to work if you simply add a few more completely unproven technologies to the mix as well. If you use a VASIMR engine, powered by a Helium-3 fusion reactor, with guidance provided by space based solar power, it all becomes possible.

You forgot the propellant depots at L1.
 

blackstar

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GeorgeA said:
blackstar said:
Stop being so pessimistic. This can easily be made to work if you simply add a few more completely unproven technologies to the mix as well. If you use a VASIMR engine, powered by a Helium-3 fusion reactor, with guidance provided by space based solar power, it all becomes possible.

You forgot the propellant depots at L1.
No, I didn't. I figured that with the inclusion of the unicorn, they weren't necessary.
 

Stargazer2006

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According to the latest issue of Popular Mechanics, the Stratolaunch aircraft is known at Scaled as the Model 351 and named the Roc.



http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/aviation/news/say-hello-to-stratolaunch-the-worlds-largest-plane-6705761?click=pp
 

blackstar

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At their last press conference they indicated that the aircraft would look different than the early concept art. I wonder if this reflects a more accurate version?
 
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