Another question asked whether a Falcon 9 class rocket could reach orbit with a person (-like mass) duct-taped to the outside of it, in spite of the resulting mass asymmetry. The consensus of one seems to be that possibly yes, it could.

Which directly leads me to the question whether a person could actually survive the ride in a space suit. Any resemblance to actual persons, real or fictional, is purely coincidental!

enter image description here enter image description here

I'm not dogmatically sticking to duct tape; if needed we can bolt on a little harness or such. It takes only about 2.5 minutes to leave the atmosphere. How hot does an exposed surface get during ascent? What's the maximum force to endure at max Q? Anything I have forgotten? Would the sound kill an exposed person? At start? At breaking the sound barrier?

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    $\begingroup$ Your second picture isn't powered flight and he certainly couldn't have stayed on--no handhold, terminal velocity for the bomb is a lot higher than terminal velocity for a person, he would have been blown off. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 2:02
  • $\begingroup$ @LorenPechtel The first picture is not powered flight either. But the two images sprang immediately to my mind and I simply had to put them up. :-) $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ Will need a pressure suit with airsupply and thermal protection, 'cause upper atmosphere is both very cold and not very breathable. And a really secure glue to the stack. But the simple pressure of airflow should not be lethal, rockets are delicate things and try to keep their maxQ reasonably low. Humans, especially encased in an airtight suit and helmet, are remarkably non-squishy. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ Agreed ya gotta wear a spacesuit. But if you allow for a relatively long, slow ride (see, e.g. "The Mouse on the Moon" by WIbberly), then only accelerate (to orbital speed) when you're exoatmospheric, should be easy. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ At some point, a sufficiently over-engineered space suit and harness just become a crew compartment with life support. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 at 12:07

Partial answer

Max q may not be a problem, at least not a fatal problem. Colonel John Stapp survived (albeit with injuries) being exposed to a dynamic pressure of about 1200 lbf / ft^2 in the Sonic Wind rocket sled tests.

enter image description here

Shuttle max q was about 700 lbf / ft^2

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    $\begingroup$ He didn't even wear a space suit or helmet which would add significant protection. By the way, the facial contortions are probably also due to the 12 - 22g acc/deceleration he experienced. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 7:12
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    $\begingroup$ 700 lbf / ft^2 ? Interesting, the Falcon9's max-Q is very similar, at 30Kpa. We know that 18Kpa is survivable for an extended period, as per Captain Lancaster of British Airways Flight 5390. He got sucked out through malf window, injuries mainly due to lack of oxygen, and buffeting against the fuselage. $\endgroup$ Jul 16 at 10:33
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    $\begingroup$ @PcMan A similar harrowing example might be the guy who survived a partial ejection from a military jet (a Prowler?) which left him sticking out of the canopy . I'll see if I can find that story again. $\endgroup$
    – TooTea
    Jul 16 at 11:42
  • $\begingroup$ @TooTea gallagherstory.com/ejection_seat KA-6D not EA-6B, but close enough $\endgroup$
    – llama
    Jul 16 at 15:25

Main problem will be deadly sound blast that most big rockets generate. 150 decibels is enough to burst your eardrums, 185-200 dB is enough to kill you. Space Shuttle was about 180 dB at launch site, but with the help of sound suppression system. But sound suppression system doesn't limit any rocket sounds blast after the launch and scientist believe that prolonged exposure to 154 decibels will kill you as well.

So answer to your question. If you are fasten to rocket upper stage, with pressure suit with air supply and thermal protection, you can survive ascend only when rocket sound blast during launch and whole ascend is lower than 154 decibels.

  • $\begingroup$ The shuttle goes supersonic about 45 seconds after launch, so the exposure is not prolonged. Maybe the sound energy is mostly distributed behind the engines, too. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Jul 17 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ 154 dB for 45 seconds can be still long enough for killing you. Obviously it was never tested on humans, but was it tested at least on animals in some old military experiments. And 180 dB were only noise level in Shuttle payload bay, I couldn't find what were noise level outside during launch, after launch during ascend in atmosphere or estimated outside noise levels during launch in case that Shuttle didn't use sound suppression system. $\endgroup$
    – David Cage
    Jul 17 at 8:38
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    $\begingroup$ Falcon 9 is 156.1 dB at 125 ft. If you are strapped to the payload fairing, you are 230 feet from the engines. (yes, it is THAT long!!). Still, that's a good 148dB. A good passive hearing protector will cut that to 130dB, a top-of-the-line active noise cancellation system will drop it to 120dB. So even your hearing should be fine(ish). Not so good for the lungs, as they are harder to shield, but the exposure time is less than 70 seconds. $\endgroup$ Jul 17 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Is the sound intensity omnidirectional? $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Jul 18 at 10:28
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    $\begingroup$ Also, the lack of atmosphere is certainly going to kill the unfortunate passenger, so we need to assume they have some kind of space suit, and that's going to provide additional protection against noise. $\endgroup$
    – Innovine
    Jul 19 at 21:49

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