Assume we have a society that has sophisticated enough engineering to build a SSTO chassis that can survive the rigors of repeated launch (MaxQ) and re-entry (thermal stress). What thrust to weight ratio would they have to achieve from their propulsion systems in order to get the craft into orbit around an Earth-clone planet without the need for external boosters?
What thrust-to-weight ratio would be required for a SSTO without any external boosters?
$\begingroup$ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsiolkovsky_rocket_equation DeltaV = Ve * ln(Mi/Mf) where DeltaV is the change in velocity -- about 7 km/s for earth. Ve is the effective exhaust velocity ln is the natural logarithm Mi is the initial mass with fuel Mf is the final dry weight. So DeltaV/Ve = ln (Mi/Mf) e^(DeltaV/Ve) = Mi/Mf $\endgroup$– Sherwood BotsfordMar 4, 2017 at 22:11
$\begingroup$ Are you aware of this? McDonnell Douglas DC-X - "en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_DC-X" - Screw it, if you follow this you find NASA Kills it. Shortly there after SpaceX and Blue Origin have some new employee's and exciting Reusable Rockets. $\endgroup$– Enigma MaitreyaMar 4, 2017 at 22:20
$\begingroup$ I've migrated this from Worldbuilding to Space Exploration as per the asker's request. I think it's okay for here, but if it's not, we'll take it back. $\endgroup$– HDE 226868Mar 4, 2017 at 22:31
$\begingroup$ This is an interesting question with no easy answer. The SSTO needs TWR lower than 1 for flight on wings, but to reach any considerable fraction of orbital speed it must leave the atmosphere, as Ram Rise heating would obliterate it. For that it needs TWR approaching 1 - but not quite, because a part of its gravity drag is gone. Regardless, unless you have some magical propulsion of impossible delta-V, you'll want to make it in a good time to orbit to reduce gravity losses, so TWR>1 will be definitely welcome... $\endgroup$– SF.Mar 4, 2017 at 23:06
$\begingroup$ Do you talk some specific type of SSTO rocket style, jet style or in a general one? $\endgroup$– MolbOrgMar 4, 2017 at 23:28
What thrust to weight ratio would they have to achieve from their propulsion systems in order to get the craft into orbit
This wording indicates that you think there is a threshold. All designs with a TWR lower than this will fail to reach orbit, and designs with a higher TWR will succeed. This premise is incorrect. As SF says in his comment, a winged SSTO can get away with a TWR lower than 1. So depending on body design (large wings, small wings, lifting body or cylindrical rocket) you get a large range of possible TWR figures.
Other numbers are more critical than TWR:
- You need sufficient delta-V to reach orbit.
- You need a mass fraction that's good enough to bring some payload to orbit.
Those two combined (via the Rocket Equation) give a minimum specific impulse required to get that payload to orbit. TWR is a consideration via gravity losses: the longer you take to get to orbital speed, the more gravity losses you'll have and the more delta-V you'll need to account for.
So in order to be able to calculate anything, we need 2 parameters:
- required payload
- available specific impulse
Those two are enough to calculate the starting mass of the SSTO. Economics then decides if such an SSTO is worth building.
$\begingroup$ I would respectfully point out your answer is Off Topic because it does not answer the question the OP asked. While I agree this will always be about delta-v that was not what was asked for. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2017 at 17:03
7$\begingroup$ Pointing out that a question has an incorrect premise is on topic. $\endgroup$– HobbesMar 5, 2017 at 18:13
$\begingroup$ With all due respect it would seem that is what messages are for else why this "This does not provide an answer to the question" as a reason for deleting an answer? $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2017 at 18:20
5$\begingroup$ "The premise is incorrect but here is an answer to a closely related question that the correction of premise might reasonably lead to" is helpful enough to be worth making an exception. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2017 at 18:29
$\begingroup$ @RussellBorogove - Thanks for that reply and regardless of how people may take things ... I prefer "helpful enough ..." but as I have read through a lot of questions and answers I get the impression that the value judgment is ... extremely broad indicating a possible preferential implementation. Regardless I accept your answer and thank you for confirming the Rules are not Literally the rules, rather guidelines to be used by people to do what they (subjectively) think is right. $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2017 at 19:01
There is a chart and the explanation at wikipedia
Being limited by the performance of the existing chemical fuels and being limited by the sane take-off mass of less than 3K metric tonns (the weight of a Saturn V, the biggest rocket ever) then dry weight (everything but the fuel itself - the body, the payload itself, engines, re-entry fuel, safety margin fuel, landing gears, wings etc - everything) must fit into less than ~10% of the total mass, close to 5%, which is very challenging task to achieve.
Usage of better fuels like hydrogen improves the thrust to weight ratio but affects the dry weight because of the decreased density and insulating material for the cryogenic fuel tanks, so overall it does not make a big difference.
In order to SSTO to be technically possible we need the next generation of fuels / engines. Something like metallic hydrogen, thermonuclear fusion engine, photon engine etc.
$\begingroup$ "In order to SSTO to be technically possible we need the next generation of fuels / engines. " only if you insist on having a payload. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2019 at 17:11
1$\begingroup$ @OrganicMarble Every problem we're having is because of this damn payload. No payload = no need for a rocket = no problem. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2019 at 21:13
2$\begingroup$ I'm with you! No more payloads. Just rockets. $\endgroup$ Jun 13, 2019 at 21:15
The question asked I am answering
What thrust to weight ratio would they have to achieve from their propulsion systems in order to get the craft into orbit around an Earth-clone planet without the need for external boosters?
I had wanted to use the Delta Clipper X but had a Eureka Moment that it was a scale testing unit and switched to this instead. To the best of my knowledge, there has not been a "Public" SSTO made or launched. Some may consider Lockheed a credible source.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VentureStar - VentureStar
While never built the work presented here seems to be consistent with a Full Scale Ship (SSTO)
Function Manned Re-usable Spaceplane Manufacturer Lockheed Martin Country of origin United States Size Height 38.7 m (127 ft) Diameter N/A Mass 1,000,000 kg (2,200,000 lb) Stages 1 Capacity Payload to LEO 20,412 kg (45,000 lb) Launch history Status Cancelled Launch sites Unknown Total launches 0 First stage - VentureStar Engines 7 RS2200 Linear Aerospikes Thrust 3,010,000 lb (13.39 MN) Fuel LOX/LH2
It gives both weight and thrust.
The following is based on the MASS because I have no clue if the Payload is included or not.
0.1643017177 lbs per Newton would be your answer in Newtons.
Or for my bud SF that likes to groan a lot :) 164.3017177 lbs per kN
Or 164,301.717699776 lbs per MN
Treat lbs of mass as lbf of weight, divide thrust in lbf by that and you have the clean dimensionless TWR
3,010,000 / 2,200,000 gives 1.36818118118182 - Just for you
For those that want a good and interesting read on Real Life SSTO's go here
The Delta Clipper, VentureStar, SpaceX, Blue Origin Are all linked together. The Delta Clipper was taken over by NASA killed in favor of their choice the VenturStar because of the landing being horizontal rather than vertical then canceled it for the Space Shuttle and guess were everyone went to work. Let us .... say the obvious, The Shuttle, Delta Clipper XA, VentureStar all ran separately and parallel to each other.
4$\begingroup$ "lbs per kN" groan $\endgroup$– SF.Mar 4, 2017 at 22:59
$\begingroup$ The groaning presumably comes from mixing imperial (lbs) and SI (N) units, not imperial and kilo- or mega- units. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2017 at 23:30
2$\begingroup$ I like SF his taunts at me are cool and make me laugh (with both respect and all other good ways). Hopefully no one takes my response to him wrong. As in I would buy him a Beer any day of the week and have a good time. $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2017 at 23:32
1$\begingroup$ @EnigmaMaitreya: Exactly. You've got both lbs and lbf, and kg and kN. What possessed you to mix the units? Treat lbs of mass as lbf of weight, divide thrust in lbf by that and you have the clean dimensionless TWR. $\endgroup$– SF.Mar 5, 2017 at 0:38
$\begingroup$ @SF - I would have thought that answer was obvious, being American and all and lbf vs kN = hum most scientist prefer kN in this scenario and lbs .... what can I say? Oh wait :) I am working a compromise here :) I note your not saying the mixing is wrong as in giving an error ... are you? To be clear as it seems people like to obfuscate things, I have dealt with the UK + Europe for longer than ... some posters and editors here have been alive. I knew exactly what you meant as it would not have been the first discussion of that nature .... not by a long shot. :) So are we good? $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2017 at 1:41