With computer flight controls where they are today, what would stop us from building a relatively large space station on earth, but then using 10 or 20 or even 100 falcon heavy or Starship or SLS rockets to launch it to orbit?

For an example, let’s say we built a von Braun station with a diameter of 300M that had rockets placed under it evenly every ~47 meters to launch it in one go into orbit? This assumes an extremely strong structure, but in theory, if the launches and flight paths are coordinated well they could avoid any twisting or other non-consistent pressures? Even an empty structure with nothing but the pressure vessel and basic airlock equipment would solve a lot of initial problems. I am assuming lower payload per rocket because the aerodynamics would obviously be affected at lower altitudes.

Is this remotely possible as an alternative to current space construction issues and limited fairing sizes, or are there issues I’m not considering or underestimating?

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, a massively parallel rocket question needs to be asked! As long as there is a gap between rockets for air to flow, drag per rocket may be not much larger than for a single rocket. Different but related: What would the challenges be in developing a Falcon Heavy with three or four strap-on boosters? and Ballpark comparison of a hypothetical Falcon 'Quad' Heavy with cross feeds and How big could a rocket get? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Jan 15, 2021 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ Purely from a risk standpoint, not a good idea. It's one thing to lose 5% of a space station if 19 out of 20 launches (containing parts) are successful; quite another to lose the entire investment in one failure. And as you suggest, why make the entire structure launch-force-compatible when that's gross overkill for the final deployment? $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2021 at 12:56
  • $\begingroup$ As noted above, the risks are too high. Also, the aerodynamic effects will be sufficient to significantly increase the fuel costs for launching such a design. This, in turn, would necessitate an increase in the amount of fuel. Further, this leads to an increase in total mass. If it were expedient, then developments in this direction would already be carried out. The James Webb Telescope will be deployed in space. That is, it will be launched in a folded state. There are objective reasons for this. $\endgroup$
    – TommyJo
    Jan 15, 2021 at 14:54
  • $\begingroup$ This resembles OTRAG, a launch system comprised of lots of identical rockets bundled together (and the bundles stacked, for multiple stages). It was a very interesting project that went nowhere for reasons only tangentially related to the design itself. But it seems like an OTRAG-like system could get this sort of work done. $\endgroup$
    – SF.
    Jan 15, 2021 at 17:56
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget that there's another reason for assembling structures in orbit from smaller parts: A large space station that was just strong enough to withstand the worst-case stresses that it would encounter in flight might be incapable of supporting its own weight on the surface of the Earth. A sufficiently large spacecraft that is strong enough to not collapse under its own weight here on Earth might be massively over-built for orbit. $\endgroup$ Jan 15, 2021 at 18:26


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