# Up, Up and Away

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#### Shpaget

##### Guest
I can't help myself but every day I spend hours thinking about going up there (LEO, or above), not personally, in general.
We all know that price of just getting there (approx. \$15000/kg) is significant portion of entire price of space exploration, stations, satellites...

At that price ISS, which currently weights more than 300 tons, cost more than \$4,5 b just to get up there.
Don't you think that that money could have been spent on developing some form of non-rocket or hybrid spacelaunch which would in long term pay itself off just by being cheaper?

I'm starting this thread to see what you think. My question is "How to decrease the cost of getting there, staying there and finally coming back in one piece?"

Rules are:
System does not have to be able to launch humans (excessive G's) but it is desirable.
You have to figure out how to fund your project. Keep it realistic (chances are Bill Gates isn't your uncle and he won't decide to fund it all by himself).
No usage of nonexistent and theoretical materials and technologies.
If you can, try to calculate total cost, cost per kg to LEO, capacity of your system and of course profitability.

My proposal is a hybrid maglev/rocket system. Speed up your precious cargo on tracks and then the rockets take over to finish the launch and park the satellite/whatever in orbit.
Maglev track would be 100 km long and would be able to provide acceleration of 30-50 m/s^2 for humans and 200+ for less squishy cargo.
It means that speed at the end of track would be 8 800 - 11 000 km/h for humans and 22 000+ km/h for general cargo.
Now for the costs.
Transrapid maglev track in Shanghai cost \$1.3 b. It is 60 km long (30 km in each direction). That would mean that a 100 km track would cost around \$2.2 b. If we assume that this track would need to be more powerful and capable of whisking away heavier loads, it is reasonable to increase that price to (little bit of guesswork here) no more than \$5 b.
You also must keep in mind that Shanghai track was half experimental and that each new km you build would be cheaper than previous.
This track could be built in some third world African country (near equator, mountains, cheaper labor and materials...). They get an enormous project in their backyard which will require significant amount of workforce meaning that local labor would be logical choice helping their economy.

Funding:
This would, of course, be an international project which would involve ESA, NASA, US Government, perhaps International Monetary Fund...
I even thought about private investors. There are hundreds of multimillionaires, even billionaires. Some of them might chip in. Even general public could donate. I believe there are millions of space enthusiasts that would be willing to help with couple of bucks. I know I would give \$100 if there was some serious joint project backed up by ESA and NASA.

Do you have any suggestions?

Z

##### Guest
Hi Shpaget,

I'm all for exploring new avenues and your maglev idea has some interesting possibilities but I can't get my head around what you do about atmospheric heating. Is your maglev track inclined or elevated? What altitude would you be at when you leave your track at 8000+ KM/h? Doing that sort of speed in the lower atmosphere wouldn't really be possible.

As far as I know, most space launch trajectories go straight up first to clear the thicker part of the atmosphere, then tip over to accelerate in the thinner air before entering space proper and reaching orbit. A shuttle launch takes about 8 min. to reach orbit, by the time the SRB's burn out at 2 min. the vehicle has passed through most of the atmosphere and has 6 minutes of main engine burn left mostly to build speed for orbit.

If you could manage the aerodynamic heating due to friction, or elevate your maglev track to 10Km+ altitude, then you might make it work.

For my own idea, I'd build a Gen-2 shuttle type spaceplane, but I'll have to think a bit about the details...

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#### access

##### Guest
immediately the most likely cheap launch solutions tend to use air launch my prefered version of this is the rockoon (rocket+balloon) because a balloon is capable of carrying rockets to the upper atmosphere where the atmosphere is thin.

reasons for ballons over planes:
1.higher, planes can only fly where there is enough atmosphere to generate the necessary lift.
2.cheaper, even if the carrier balloon is destroyed every launch it is not an issue.
problems:
1. precision, balloons are easily blown around by wind making a precise orbit difficult.

How i would solve the precision issue is by making a larger rig to launch the rocket that could include engines to postion the balloon better. that means the rig wouldn't be destroyed which would make it a bit more complicated but not impossible.

As for funding any cheap space flight option would immediately dominate the market and i would just have to convince some venture capitalists that it would work. BTW not super expensive to develop. capacity is an issue as the larger the payload the larger the balloon and well that makes stuff harder but you could get a reasonably sized satellite up.

cost=couple weather balloons+upperstage rocket+extra rig

for more on rockoons see http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~cuspaceflight/ or http://www.davinciproject.com/

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#### MeteorWayne

##### Guest
access":5h0fgi0m said:
reasons for ballons over planes:
1.higher, planes can only fly where there is enough atmosphere to generate the necessary lift.

Uhhh, where do you think that balloons get their lift from? The Atmosphere!!

In a vacuum, balloons don't float...they only float when they are lighter then their surrounding medium

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#### zergnerd

##### Guest
1.higher, planes can only fly where there is enough atmosphere to generate the necessary lift.

Uhhh, where do you think that balloons get their lift from? The Atmosphere!!

In a vacuum, balloons don't float...they only float when they are lighter then their surrounding medium

My understanding was that planes aren't limited by lift, but rather by having sufficient oxygen to combust the jet fuel. This means they generally don't fly over 50,000 ft. Balloons, on the other hand, can reach about 100,000 feet before their buoyancy is limited. There are aircraft that can reach this altitude, but they are generally experimental. One advantage an aircraft would have is that it could launch the rocket with an initial velocity of 1000 mph, whereas a balloon would essentially be a stationary platform.

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#### zergnerd

##### Guest
I have seen the "railgun" idea floated several times for low cost lunar launch (say lunar mining) with the inert capsule being picked up in orbit by some sort of mothership. The atmosphere would be the horsefly in the ointment here on earth.

The only serious "cheap" space access proposal I have seen recently is Spacelift's space elevator. We probably still have a couple decade of carbon nanotube research before it is viable. Since the lift will be very slow, you'd need two elevator's, really -- one for up, one for down -- positioned next to each other. The build cost would be enormous, but once constructed, would allow access to space for pennies per pound.

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#### EarthlingX

##### Guest
This is something similar to what you are talking about:
http://www.cyrus-space-system.com/

I think they are slightly in the dark concerning how to finance project, but other things are at least theoretically solved to a large extent.

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