109

With a rocket you have to carry the fuel with you. You are not just propelling the mass of the payload, but also the mass of the fuel. Installing a space elevator is a one-time event that can then be used to propel payloads indefinitely. You no longer have to carry the fuel to get to orbit.


79

First stages are generally run to depletion (though not complete depletion - I'll get to that later). First stage ascents often use a preprogrammed, open loop guidance system to get out of the atmosphere with a good chunk of downrange velocity. Because winds aloft and other factors may vary, first stage performance also varies somewhat. Upper stage guidance ...


64

In addition to not requiring fuel: A rocket has to accelerate to orbital speed. This takes a lot of energy. A space elevator can climb at a low, constant vertical speed (albeit for a very long climb), and gets its orbital speed almost for free, from Earth's rotation (see Tom Spilker's answer for far more detail on this). Because a rocket accelerates to ...


58

Here's a simple reason: Most of the rocket's fuel is used just to push the rest of fuel! It sounds strange for those unfamiliar with Rocket equation. The reality is, if we want to accelerate by exhausting something behind us - then we have a problem when the speed we need to reach (8 km/s orbital speed) is greater than exhaust speed (3-5 km/s). In this ...


52

The Delta V requirement to launch is about 14 km/s to low lunar orbit, per Wikipedia. That means that you would have to achieve a speed of 14 km/s in order to orbit the moon. Some of that will need to be done from space, but most of it could theoretically be achieved from the ground. So, what do you need to do to make that happen? In World War II, the ...


51

A big difference is that you wouldn't need to leave someone in lunar orbit. We now have experience and confidence in the remote operation of an uncrewed vehicle. So you could have a crew of two instead of three. Or perhaps a crew of three to the surface with a larger LM. Overall, there would be much more automation, especially for the landing process, ...


40

Short answer: Space stations have been refueled on orbit, as well as some small demonstration missions. Long answer: There is only a limited number of objects that this is even an option. There are 3 types of docking which have generally happened. Those involving manned spacecraft but not a space station, those involving a space station, and those with ...


37

It boils down to efficiencies of energy conversion and the cost of the technologies doing the conversions. If you have a given mass at Earth's surface that you want in geostationary orbit, you have to raise it to the geostationary radius (or altitude, if you prefer to think in those terms), and you have to accelerate it to geostationary orbit velocity. Both ...


36

No, because there's nothing like water for a keel to work against. In water sailing there are two force vectors, the vector from the reaction of the wind against the sail, and the vector from the keel and rudder against the water. These vectors add together to propel the sailboat. This works for almost any direction on the compass except where the wind ...


35

If you watch these videos: ATV boost Zvezda boost ...you can see that the acceleration is quite gentle, but definite. The astronauts do need to hang on to something if they don't want to drift to the back of whatever room they're in. The first video was a reboost performed with the ATV service ship, as described in this article. Depending on what ...


33

You cannot directly propel the solar sail towards the sun. A solar "sail" is basically a mirror. The analogy of wind and sails on ships is not useful for understanding how solar sails work. Each photon from the sun which strikes the sail is reflected. Each photon imparts a small amount of momentum. If the sail is pointed directly at the sun then you get ...


33

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 ...


32

Not assuming any time taken for orbital maneuvering, turning halfway 180° to decelerate, assuming closest distance of planets (and Luna) to the Earth, and not accounting for fuel burn (i.e. literal constant 1g acceleration): The Moon / Luna: Closest to Earth (Supermoon): 356,577 km Travel time (at 9.80665 m/s2, no deceleration): 2h 22m 12s Travel time (at 9....


32

Assuming acceleration is constant, $d=(1/2) a t^2$. So plotted over time, distance traveled is a nice parabola. If you want the time it'd take for a specific distance, it's easy to manipulate $d=(1/2) a t^2$. $t=\sqrt{2d/a}$ If you're using meters and seconds as your units, $a=9.8 meters/sec^2$ To travel half the distance to the moon would take about 1....


31

This was one of the questions just now during the Rosetta press briefing. This video was shown during the presentation: The triangular trajectory are hyperbolic orbits with respect to the comet and they'll (also, among other tasks also mentioned in the image you're attaching) serve to establish its mass. In essence ...


28

Space is basically a vacuum, so there's no air resistance. A probe that's been launched will travel at the same speed indefinitely. Because New Horizons is moving away from the Sun, it loses some speed to overcome the Sun's gravity. New Horizons was launched on the fastest rocket they could get. Then it used a gravity assist from Jupiter to gain some more ...


27

To make a long story short, liquid hydrogen has a very low density of just 70 kg/m3. RP1, on the other hand, has a density very close to that of water - about 1000 kg/m3. This means that for the same mass of hydrogen fuel, you'd need a tank 14 times as large. Couple that with the need to keep LH2 cryogenic or lose it to boiloff, and it becomes a very complex ...


25

This is actually somewhat easier than you would think. In the world of Orbital Dynamics, you only have to accelerate or decelerate your orbit to move closer/further away from the object you are orbiting. So, all you have to do is create a net momentum that pushes to slow down your orbital velocity. However, a big part of what makes tacking work is the fact ...


25

As far as I know, the shock wave in detonating explosives does not go faster than about 2.5 km/s, so a bullet will not be propelled beyond that speed, however many barrels of gunpowder you accumulate. The shock wave can be sped up if the operation occurs in a high pressure environment, though, but reaching enough speed to get to orbit (about 8 km/s) seems ...


22

Propulsion Until someone solves the N-body problem every spacecraft needs some kind of propulsion to correct its course during the mission. New Horizons uses a Hydrazine based propulsion system including four 4.4 N main thrusters and twelve 0.9 N attitude control thrusters. Its 77 kg fuel tank allows a total post launch delta-v of somewhere over 290 m/s (...


22

The answer to the question, "Do the astronauts feel the station moving?" is yes, definitely, but sometimes in an "indirect" fashion. During Space Shuttle mission STS-109, when floating in my sleeping bag and waiting for slumber to come, I would notice that occasionally my body would softly brush up against one side or the other of said sleeping bag. A ...


22

Ultimately an elevator is going to be more efficient, because it doesn't have to deal with gravity losses. Let me pose a question to you. What does it take for a rocket to hover in place like Blue Origin's New Shepard? If you've watched any of their launches you know they don't shut off the engine completely, but keep them running the whole time while ...


21

Original Answer Given Alcubierre's math, and White's calculations, it's a viable avenue of research to pursue. Whether or not it is practical as FTL, and given the expected maximum apparent speed of about 10 times the speed of light (White), and that the math says it should be able to be done, an attempt to implement a prototype series should be of immense ...


21

While the ISP on Ion thrusters is awesome, the overall thrust is pretty low. Thus the transit time from LEO to GEO would be quite long and slow. In some cases this matters. If it takes an extra year to get in service, that is a year of lost service while in transit. In fact a critique of the Falcon 9's ability to do dual launches is that only the smaller ...


20

SpaceX looked at the design of a booster with fresh eyes. Their concern was cost and reusability. Different fuels, while more efficient are much more expensive to manage (two fuel systems), and develop (two different engines). They took a more pragmatic approach of can we build an effective booster that is cheap, vs super performant. An RL-10 cluster as ...


19

Biprop attitude control thrusters using UDMH and N2O4 in a docked Progress vehicle are used to reboost ISS using about four Progress vehicles a year. More recently, ESA's ATVs have also been doing reboosts using MMH/N2O4 thrusters. On the order of 2 m/s per month is required.


19

There's an assumption in your question. the Apollo configuration of 3-person CSM and 2-person LM, launched atop a single vehicle was considered the optimal choice for its day. The simplest mission profile would have been a direct flight. The docking required for both EOR and LOR schemes seems to have been distrusted at the time; hence a major objective ...


19

Assuming you mean "quite small" in terms of mass as well as thrust output. Fundamentally, current ion drives are limited by the amount of power available to them - it takes many, many kilowatts of input power to provide tiny amounts of thrust. As you know from the answer you linked, the Dawn spacecraft is powered by 3 NSTAR ion engines which generate a ...


19

The problem is that the transition produces enough energy to boil the LH2. As explained on the old sci.space.history group: Skipping the gory quantum-mechanical details... there are two energy states of the hydrogen molecule, ortho and para. At room temperature, hydrogen is about 3/4 ortho. At liquid-hydrogen temperatures, the stable state is ...


19

First, I suggest watching this tv show: They set out to put a backyard rocket into space (note: space, not orbit.) Unfortunately, that turned out not to be feasible, they ended up settling for sending a hybrid rocket up about 10 miles and with a lot of assistance. The problems that come to mind: So far high power solid ...


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