47 votes
Accepted

How did the X-15 control attitude above the Kármán line?

The X-15 had a reaction control system for all three axes using thrusters with hydrogen-peroxide monopropellant. There was an automatic as well as a manual mode. The manual mode used a single three-...
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39 votes

How did the X-15 control attitude above the Kármán line?

The X-15 has a reaction control system. In this image, it's item 2, 13 and 28, labeled 'ballistic control system'. It was operated via a joystick. Detail of two of the thrusters:
  • 122k
20 votes

What is the difference between a space plane and a space shuttle?

A plane, or airplane, aeroplane, is: An airplane or aeroplane (informally plane) is a fixed-wing aircraft that is propelled forward by thrust from a jet engine, propeller, or rocket engine. All ...
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19 votes
Accepted

Might either the Buran or the Space Shuttle fly again, or similar spacecraft be built in the future?

Buran and the Space Shuttle will not fly again. Both projects have ended, and the orbiters have gone to museums (or have been destroyed). Reactivating these programs would be enormously expensive at ...
  • 122k
16 votes

What does it take for a craft to perform a flight simulating weightlessness without having to fly a steep parabola/ellipse?

In order to achieve "weightlessness", you don't need to achieve a certain speed, you need to achieve a certain acceleration. Earth pulls down at approximately 9.8 m/s^2 which means that any object ...
  • 15.1k
15 votes

Might either the Buran or the Space Shuttle fly again, or similar spacecraft be built in the future?

The US Shuttle program is shut down and can not be restarted without a-never-gonna-happen expediture of funds. The Orbiters are in museums, the tooling to build External Tanks is gone or repurposed, ...
15 votes
Accepted

Can you get to orbital speed with an air breathing engine?

No. The fastest airbreathing engines we have are scramjets (supersonic combustion ramjet), i.e. a duct that compresses the air while allowing it to flow at supersonic speeds. The fastest scramjet ...
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15 votes
Accepted

Seeking concept art or photo of MAKS on carrier plane

Here you go: and another drawing:
  • 122k
15 votes

Could the SpaceShipOne fly again?

There is absolutely no reason to ever even conceive of flying it again. It was retired because it successfully did the sole task it was designed to do. SpaceShipOne was unsafe1, barely met its ...
13 votes
Accepted

Are the US shuttle and Buran the only space planes to have launched vertically with wings exposed?

Yes. Buran and the shuttle are the only ones which entered orbit, launched with wings exposed, and launched vertically. Other such designs have also been serious considered. Boeing's X-20 got the ...
  • 2,127
12 votes

Gliding into the atmosphere

It most certainly won't hurt anything. From FAA's document on returning from space, there is a very interesting chart, which I've included below. So the maximum g load is almost always at around 4500 ...
  • 119k
12 votes
Accepted

What could the X-37 be useful for?

In November 2010, Secure World Foundation (SWF) published their X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle Fact Sheet (PDF) that is a conjecture on the purpose of the two Boeing built X-37B OTV (Orbital Test Vehicles)...
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12 votes
Accepted

Would a spaceplane be able to softly land on an airless planet?

Yes But... This only works if your craft can generate enough thrust to reduce orbital velocity to zero quickly enough that acceleration due to gravity does not produce a crash landing, since you are ...
10 votes

Seeking concept art or photo of MAKS on carrier plane

There are quite a few drawings in the first link http://www.buran-energia.com/documentation/documentation-akc-maks-multipurpose.php Related development: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikoyan-...
  • 2,127
10 votes

Can you get to orbital speed with an air breathing engine?

It may be possible, but not with existing technology. The US spent almost 2 billion dollars developing an airbreathing single-stage-to-orbit vehicle in the 1990s. This "National Aerospace Plane" (...
10 votes
Accepted

Why did the SpaceShipTwo's ascent have to be aborted if the feather system wasn't unlocked in time?

If the feather system failed to unlock they would die on entry, so it had to be done before committing to the space portion of the flight. Since the feather system is critical to a safe re-entry, it ...
9 votes

Could you use a hypersonic space plane to fly into space?

I don't think it's that bad a question that it deserves all the criticism it's gotten. Basic idea, fly really high and as fast as possible, then point towards the Earth and use Earth's gravity to go ...
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9 votes

Was the X-15 program a dead end for orbital insertion?

Was the X-15 capable of reaching orbit? Not on its own (it only carried enough fuel to reach 4500 mph), but with extra fuel tanks or a booster rocket, it could. Was the X-15 capable of returning ...
  • 11.7k
9 votes

What does it take for a craft to perform a flight simulating weightlessness without having to fly a steep parabola/ellipse?

It's not so much a matter of speed but one of altitude: where the atmospheric pressure is low enough that there's no air drag so one can longer be weightless without any air limitation. Basically the ...
  • 5,872
9 votes

Could the SpaceShipOne fly again?

SpaceShipOne was retired so quickly because it was a prototype. One of the key lessons-learned over the last seventy-plus years was that the waterfall model does not work when applied to creating ...
8 votes
Accepted

Are today's rockets the last of a dying breed?

I don't think there's any sort of trend here; of the spaceplanes you mention, one exists only on paper, and none of the others are SSTO: they're all suborbital and mostly multistage. They're ...
8 votes
Accepted

ISRO's space plane on top of of a rocket - how unstable was it?

Just to correct original question in RLV-TD (Reusable Launch Vehicle Technology Demonstration) mission the winged body TDV (Technology Demonstration Vehicle) separated at 56 km altitude and proceeded ...
  • 1,482
8 votes
Accepted

Does Jonathan McDowell access U.S. military tracking network data? If so, how? Is a security clearance involved? (Can I too?)

I'm assuming the reference is to http://space-track.org, where the US government publishes its information on satellite locations to the world. I just checked, the plane is on the site. So far as I ...
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8 votes

What is the difference between a space plane and a space shuttle?

Great question! It's like asking what's the difference between a fruit and an apple--an apple is a specific type of fruit. Similarly, the space shuttle(s) were specific examples of spaceplanes. There ...
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7 votes
Accepted

Was the X-15 program a dead end for orbital insertion?

Mach 6 buys you roughly 1.8 km/s at those altitudes. OK, let's say that X-15 reached 2 km/s for good measure. But at that speed, Newton still works against you and you're not going to perpetually miss ...
  • 75.7k
7 votes

Gliding into the atmosphere

You can't just slow it down over many orbits I think the question is suggesting letting a little bit of drag slow the Cessna down until it's at a normal speed before gliding through the atmosphere. ...
  • 2,041
6 votes

Could you use a hypersonic space plane to fly into space?

Skylon's design is, in fact, for a hypersonic SSTO that is partially air-breathing, much as you describe. It has some important differences, though. The first of these is that it does not use a dive ...
  • 4,526
6 votes

Gliding into the atmosphere

First of all, the heat shields aren't there just for the dense atmosphere with high deceleration, the upper atmosphere part of reentry also generates heat. If you had a craft that could fly in the ...
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6 votes

ISRO's space plane on top of of a rocket - how unstable was it?

The fins on the HS9 booster are much larger than what you'd normally see on a rocket with a compact payload under a fairing, which contributes to stability passively, and according to this article, ...
6 votes
Accepted

Has the use of any commercial launch vehicle's engines on an unrelated vehicle ever been seriously considered?

Not just discussion, this has been done multiple times. A non-exhaustive list: Blue Origin's BE-4 will be used on ULA Vulcan as well as Blue Origin's New Glenn. the Kuznetsov NK-33 was used on the ...
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