The first time I saw this design was in this post and I was intrigued. The Martin Spacemaster from ~1970. What a cool design! Lots of SSME's, fully reusable, asymmetrical cockpit, and air breathing engines all in one.

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Credit: Organic Marble (if this is not the right way to cite other StackExchange posts, please correct me)

Obviously the design was not selected for the shuttle, but how feasible was it from a technical perspective? Seems like a viable alternative for full reusability. Any glaring problems that would prevent this system from working?

In a way this seems similar in principle to Virgin Orbit's system, except Virgin is using a commercial-modified 747 as the boost vehicle.

  • $\begingroup$ I don't know details so posting as a comment. The shuttle design went through 4 main phases called A-D. Spacemaster was only in Phase A and wasn't even selected for that by NASA, Martin paid for the study itself. At the end of Phase A the designs had been downselected to a high- and low- cross range orbiter and more conventional boosters. Martin was placed on a team with TRW and MacDac. So for whatever reason Spacemaster didn't make the cut for NASA to pay for it in Phase A or to proceed to Phase B. Too bad, I like the way it looks... $\endgroup$ Dec 15 '20 at 21:23
  • $\begingroup$ See The Hypersonic Revolution vol 2 media.defense.gov/2010/Sep/27/2001329812/-1/-1/0/… $\endgroup$ Dec 15 '20 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ Looks at first glance that the "dead weight" of this design, as opposed to dropping boosters or first stages, is significant, and that means serious payload mass vs. propellant mass issues. $\endgroup$ Dec 16 '20 at 13:15
  • $\begingroup$ It seems weird to have all that liquid hydrogen in a winged vehicle. (esp. the lower stage). $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Dec 17 '20 at 3:27

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