67

Because space isn't about going high; it's about going fast! For example, in a 400 km orbit (like ISS) you need a speed of about 27,500 km/h or 7.66 km per second. So if you would extend a pole, winch or anything else into the lower parts of the atmosphere, it would also move at about 27,500 km/h (if we ignore atmospheric drag and all other ...


54

Interesting but no, it wouldn't work for the same reason that astronauts in the International Space Station, other space stations, or orbiting shuttles or capsules do not "feel" gravity with respect to their station or capsule. When you are inside an object which is in orbit, you are in orbit too! The Earth pulls on the station with nearly 1 g and it pulls ...


48

Salt does all sorts of unpleasant things to just about every building material humans use. Hot salt spray, such as you'd get from a rocket launch, is even worse: spraying something with hot saltwater is one of the techniques used for corrosion testing. Build a launch pad over the ocean, and you'll need to clean it off after each launch to try to keep the ...


46

Take a look at the SABRE engine. The goal is to achieve single stage runway liftoff/land to/from orbit with a hybrid engine capable of breathing air at low altitude but switching to stored oxidizer and operating like a rocket when it is not practical to use ambient air. The limitations of an air-breathing engine for space launch are that You can't go very ...


43

Systems that do this exist and more are being introduced. It's just that they hide their appearance and look somewhat different to what would be expected from what you describe. Orbital Sciences Corporation (now owned by Northrop Grumman) have been air launching the Pegasus satellite launcher since 1990 (almost 30 years). Virgin Galactic's 'White Knight' ...


36

The main engineering challenge in implementing your proposal is that in order to be competitive with a chemical rocket engine, the grinding wheel must rotate at an extremely high velocity. A typical chemical rocket might have a specific impulse between about 250 and 450 seconds; therefore, the exhaust velocity is about 2500-4500 m/s. In a competitive ...


26

A flywheel is so efficient because it is big and heavy, both of which you don't want to add to a spacecraft. As for spinning an existing component, the only parts of a rocket that really have any significant mass (would justify the additional bearings and generator) would be fuel tanks. Spinning a fuel tank with liquid fuel in it would be tricky though, ...


26

No, unless your structure is located directly on the equator and your satellite follows a perfectly circular orbit, atmospheric "orbits" aren't possible, even in a vacuum tunnel. Because the Earth is on an axis of ~23 degrees and rotates every day, it is not possible to create an orbit which has no ground track precession except for equatorial ...


25

What you're describing is (more or less) the StarTram "gen 1" design. The reference design has: 40 tonne unmanned cargo projectile, 25 tonnes of payload, ~2 m wide, ~13 m long. A 130 km maglev acceleration tunnel, evacuated. An exit point 6000 m up, on a mountain. A plasma window to allow projectile egress into atmosphere without repressurising the entire ...


25

No, I don't believe so. The reason space telescopes do well is that there's no atmosphere limiting the optical performance of the device. A telescope on a balloon is not anywhere near above the atmosphere. It's above a lot of the water in the atmosphere, which is why IR things can be better there, but there is still turbulence above it which will limit ...


23

Since the term "grain" is already in use in the solid rocket context, I'm favoring the term "cereal". Cereals contain about 66–76% carbohydrates -- mostly starch (55–70%) plus some sugars and cellulose. Cellulose combusted with gaseous oxygen yields surprisingly good specific impulse, up in the 240 sec range; sugars with potassium nitrate ...


21

Would a higher air pressure on the ISS or elsewhere make it easier to “swim” in microgravity? Yes! But what's really important is the density, so instead of pressuring "normal air" you can just make a denser atmospheric mixture and keep the pressure the same. This answer says If you want the air to be 5 times easier to swim, you can just replace ...


21

The underlying aerogel scheme seems to have some serious fundamental flaws: Aerogel is extremely expensive, and you need enough to cover a significant portion of a planet. Aerogel is extremely brittle and easy to pulverize. The poles are dark much of the year. Photosynthetic organisms won't function during the winter, and it'll get cold enough to form heavy ...


20

It absolutely could! First of all, water can be split in to hydrogen and oxygen, which can be enough to launch a rocket. Hydrogen requires a very low temperature, and the rocket engine doesn't have as much thrust as other options out there, but it is the same fuel that ran the Space Shuttle main engine, among others. Water and carbon dioxide, easily ...


19

I don't know if it has ever been considered by anyone. In my view, this is not a good idea for at least the following reasons: It is equivalent to mechanically throwing things retrograde. See this video for an overly simple example. This is obviously not a good way for propulsion, as the specific impulse is very low. Let's talk just about the impulse $$p=...


19

There are two major barriers: one is that thrust-to-weight ratio of jet engines is pretty poor (2 J58s massing more than 15 times what 9 Rutherfords do), the other is that it's hard to make an engine that performs efficiently over the wide range of speeds and altitudes that a first stage wants to cover. That said, Boeing at one point toyed with a concept ...


19

Many novel launch schemes need some amount of help from rockets. What kills a lot of them is doing a tradeoff study of just enlarging the rocket part and getting rid of the non-rocket part. Surprisingly often, that works out to be better and cheaper. --Henry Spencer This is a system that needs a rocket part, as one of these two cases would necessary ...


18

As an alternative to DarkDust's answer, if you start higher, at the classic altitude for space elevators, the end of your cable is indeed stationary to the air. But your cable needs to reach from geostationary orbit to the upper atmosphere, something like 35,700 km. The clipping off the last 20-60 km does not make a big difference in the overall ...


16

Have the object tidally locked into its orbit around the sun This way we would get the 1g gravity from the sun on the opposite side of the asteroid Interesting idea, but you missed something in your math. You'd only get the tidal difference between the sun's gravity at the centre of mass vs. the sun's gravity 1 object-radius farther away. This varies with ...


16

Such a tunnel is not plausible for a number of reasons. 1. Problems with orbits First of all, as other people have said it would only work for equatorial orbits which were either circular (very long tunnel) or had a period which is some rational multiple of the Earth's rotational period. And, again as other people have said, the real Earth is nothing like ...


16

Partial answer: If one has solar electric power, one can use each kilogram of propellant much more effectively (i.e. higher delta-v through a higher Isp) if it is ionized and accelerated. Electrostatic acceleration can impart roughly 10,000 to 100,000 m/s (or higher potentially (pardon the pun)) velocity, versus circa 4500 m/s from an 2H2 + O2 chemical ...


16

The object of burning chemical propellant is to convert chemical energy to heat, using that heat to accelerate the propellant. If you are starting out with electrical power, you have no reason to limit the energy you put into a given mass of propellant to what you can store in it as chemical energy: just heat water directly, and you can reach temperatures ...


15

"Microbes that are genetically modified to produce perfluorocarbons" do not exist, for good reason. Carbon is a useful building block for life not only because each atom can form 4 bonds, but also because the building blocks can be taken apart and re-used to form a different compound. That's the whole idea behind the carbon cycle. Hydrogen and ...


14

Any multi-stage rocket design has to obey three rules to achieve good performance: Fuel type and engine design must allow for a high specific impulse. This is equally valid for single and multi staged rockets. Each stage's payload (which can be another stage) should outweigh the stage's structure, otherwise most of the energy is wasted accelerating the ...


14

The VASMIR 200 is listed as having a thrust of 5.4 newtons, and you need 9.8 newtons to lift 1kg against earth's gravity. So 700 tonnes is going to need more than a million engines and be consuming more than 254 GW of electricity. So even if the engines are weightless this is not lifting off from earth without co-opting the power generation of a sizable ...


14

Before I start my answer: This is not a rockoon anymore, since there is no balloon part. It's just a quirky air launched rocket. My answer: No. What you are doing is: Phase 1: Climb with a plane Phase 2: Descend with a plane Phase 3: Climb without a plane So yes, Phase 3 climb will begin with higher speed. However, since it's all energy that was gained ...


13

Unfortunately steam rockets would not be practical because they're not very efficient. I don't know how much you know about rocket propulsion so I'll begin with a discussion of one of the most important metrics: exhaust velocity, the speed of the gas coming out of the engine's nozzle. The higher that speed, generally the more efficient the engine. There ...


12

In principle, this should be possible. The question is, is it practical? An example flywheel used in car racing (i.e. a high-performance, cost-no-object application) weighs 18 kg and stores 400 kJ = 400 kWs, is 111 Wh, or 6.1 Wh/kg. A Li-ion battery has a specific energy of 100–265 Wh/kg, 16-44 times higher. So the flywheel solution needs far more ...


12

Effectively it has been done, but not in the way you're thinking (or probably intending). The USAF launched its ASAT missile into space from an F-15 fighter aircraft. While not an orbital rocket, it's close. And for orbital rockets, there's Pegasus, launched from a converted L1011 Tristar mother aircraft. It's not a concept that ever really took off, ...


12

Pipelines two orders of magnitude shorter on Earth are usually divided into many compressor stations. But let's take a look at how feasible it is. At the very least, a compressor station would have to provide a pressure greater than the pressure at the bottom of the pipeline. Fortunately, the pressure calculation needed is unusually simple for a CR3BP ( ...


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