For a generic launch vehicle, would Horizontal Take off be better than VTOL like most orbital launch vehicles?

  • $\begingroup$ What benefits do bringing wings to the equation gain us in terms of launch capability? $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Nov 22, 2022 at 3:51
  • $\begingroup$ They don't. Though good point. This is one of the reasons I dislike the Shuttle program. Wings are a waste of mass. Though more to your comment: Faster acceleration. Specifically, due to the lack of trying to compensate for 9.81ms^-2 using the same engines you are using for getting to orbit. Wings provide lift, or alternatively, as I had assumed but not stated, to simplify the question, a lifting body such as MUSTARD (though that was VTOL) Thanks! $\endgroup$ Nov 22, 2022 at 3:58
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Thing is, most rockets have a steep ascent profile precisely because they want to punch through the draggiest part of the atmosphere quickly - Falcon 9 first stage gets you to 8000KM/s at 90KM altitude and 100KM down range before it separates. Then the relatively tiny second stage gets you to 27000KM/s and 160KM altitude, which it can do because of the hugely lower drag from the thin atmosphere. For wings to be useful, you need to be in that thicker air, which means more drag for longer... Rockets dont really have a problem with gravity, its drag and lack of speed that they want to overcome. $\endgroup$
    – Moo
    Nov 22, 2022 at 4:23
  • $\begingroup$ Wings plus airbreathing engines definitely gets you something. $\endgroup$
    – ikrase
    Nov 22, 2022 at 5:27
  • $\begingroup$ the only advantage I can think of for horizontal takeoff is that you're taking advantage of wings, which give a sort of mechanical advantage. A vertical takeoff rocket has to have a thrust-to-weight ratio of better than one; a horizontal takeoff rocket doesn't, and so can probably run at generally lower powers for a while, at the penalty of also likely not accumulating much energy either due to drag limitations. $\endgroup$
    – Erin Anne
    Nov 22, 2022 at 6:14


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