I asked a question about reaching space using non-rocket aircrafts on aviation.se and I found out that it may be possible to reach the space for a short moment and then a normal aircraft designed to fly in atmosphere would start to fall. Still, that would allow to reach a certain altitude. I wonder what use could that be. Maybe transporting some supplies to orbital stations? But then with the velocity differences, it would result in a crash.

xkcd illustration of such ascend:

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Is there any use currently or theoretically in reaching out to space shortly without the ability to stay in orbit?

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    $\begingroup$ What you're talking about is usually referred to as suborbital spaceflight. I.e. the suborbital rockets and spaceplanes (e.g. sounding rockets, SpaceShipOne,...) travelling past the Kármán line, out of the dense enough lower atmosphere to allow aerodynamic flight and are on a ballistic trajectory. They have plenty of uses, from targeting orbiting objects, fast travelling routes across the globe, space tourism, to short duration microgravity experiments and Earth, magnetic field and ionosphere observations. This is not a complete list, just a few suggestions for a possible answer so far. ;) $\endgroup$
    – TildalWave
    Apr 17 '14 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ To prove Earth is flat. $\endgroup$ Mar 29 '18 at 2:44
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    $\begingroup$ @CeesTimmerman rumors are it was his second crowdfunded attempt but this time he used the "I'm a flat earther" card and got the money to do what he actually wanted that way. Which is to have a little fun. But fun is not an unexpected answer to this question :) $\endgroup$ Mar 29 '18 at 9:34

There can be many reasons:

  • Test of technology
  • Doing in-situ measurements in the mesosphere, which is too high for balloons, too low for satellites
  • Performing microgravity experiments where parabolic flights have too short segments of microgravity but where launching a spacecraft is too expensive

This list is almost certainly incomplete.


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