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Air Force Wants Reusable Fly-Back Rockets 94

Posted by timothy
from the we-can't-always-get-what-we-want dept.
FleaPlus writes "The Air Force is initiating a pathfinder program to develop a first-stage rocket booster capable of gliding back to a runway so it can be easily reused. Lockheed Martin has already launched a secretive prototype, and a Cal Poly team has a prototype based on Buzz Aldrin's Starcraft/StarBooster design (video). The Air Force estimates such a booster could cut launch costs by 50% over the current Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets, and could also offer a rapid surge/replacement capability if combined with reusable spacecraft like the recently launched X-37B. Initial test flights are planned for 2013."
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Air Force Wants Reusable Fly-Back Rockets

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  • In yelling at the moon.
    • I'd rather we blow it up.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Csj7vMKy4EI [youtube.com]

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Every Kilo counts - there are no tricks, or move closer to the equator.

        Think of the 1st stage as a great big pressure vessel, loaded with an explosive mix like an aluminum soft drink can.

        Now you can shave off material here and there, in the hope pressure waves from turbo pumps, or uneven burning from solid fuel does not burn a little crack, which will then fail big time.

        To make it reusable - it has to be thicker, and take a landing , and carry the burden of a parachute. And take the 'flex' stress as the par

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by 0123456 (636235)

          Every Kilo counts - there are no tricks, or move closer to the equator.

          First stage mass makes little difference to overall performance because it doesn't have to be carried into space... if the first stage is heavier you typically just load more fuel to compensate, and fuel is generally cheap compared to the hardware in the first stage (obviously that's not true for the shuttle SRBs, which is another reason why they were a really dumb idea).

    • by VTI9600 (1143169)

      Sure, why not...

      "I see you!! I see what you are doing!!! Return to the night! [nymag.com]"

  • Sensible (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tsotha (720379) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:25PM (#32301252)
    I hope they can come up with something that works out. This should have been done decades ago when it became clear the shuttle would always be an albatross.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by fustakrakich (1673220)

      The shuttle was originally designed to be a full piggyback system. They just wouldn't fund it.

      • Re:Sensible (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Friday May 21, 2010 @10:07PM (#32301852) Homepage Journal

        Another idea of the "fly-back" booster is something that has already been done - launch a Pegasus from an actual jet. The Space Shuttle's boosters just used parachutes, I didn't see that addressed, I suppose maybe they didn't want salt water in a liquid fueled rocket engine. But it seems like wings are still an issue, those wings are huge, and I don't think they're light. It seems like too much expense that could drag down the real cost savings

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by frieko (855745)
      Isn't the shuttle such an albatross precisely because reusability is so impractical?
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Yes.
        http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/8004.easterbrook-fulltext.html

        • The Shuttle is an artifact of the Cold War; it's only benefit was for espionage.

          1) The only advantage the Shuttle has over everything else is that it can deorbit a fragile payload intact.
          2) Deorbiting people doesn't need a shuttle; there are cheaper methods
          3) It's cheaper to repair satellites in space or replace them entirely

          What the albatross could do, however, was grab somebody else's satellite and bring it back. We just never used it for that.

          • by NNKK (218503)

            What the albatross could do, however, was grab somebody else's satellite and bring it back. We just never used it for that.

            How sure are you of that? There have been eight classified or partially-classified shuttle flights. Substantive details are known about most but not all.

      • Re:Sensible (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tsotha (720379) on Friday May 21, 2010 @10:15PM (#32301900)

        I think it would be a mistake to assume that. An orbital ship isn't fundamentally any more complicated than a passenger jetliner. I expect something like SSTO or 2STO is probably doable with low operational overhead, and a working flyback booster gets us half way to 2STO. I'm a big proponent of SSTO myself, and would like to see DC-X (or something like it) restarted.

        • by maxume (22995)

          What does complicated mean?

          Airplanes generally don't experience more than 1 or 2 gs of stress, orbital vehicles go a little past that, and 'landing' is sort of less available as an emergency option when you are traveling around a planet at a few km/s.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by NNKK (218503)

            G-forces in orbital space flight are not as problematic as you seem to think. Space Shuttle launch and reentry is generally 2-3 gravities (more for astronaut comfort than out of any actual safety concern). Everything from high-performance aircraft to race cars experience far more than that on a routine basis.

            The forces are also largely predictable and steady. We know when they'll happen and their direction, and their buildup is gradual rather than a shock, making engineering for them quite easy.

            There are lo

          • by tsotha (720379)

            Complicated meaning number of moving parts and materials requirements. I don't think the g-forces are all that meaningful from an operations standpoint. An orbital ship has to deal with a bigger heat load than a passenger jet, but rocket engines are (or at least can be) simpler than jet engines. If we'd only ever built four passenger jets they would be every bit as dangerous and as expensive as the shuttle.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Cyberax (705495)

          Not right now. SSTO with chemical rockets is just plain impossible. Weight-to-payload ratio is murderous.

          2STO should be possible, but how would it be different from Shuttle?

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reaction_Engines_SABRE [wikipedia.org] might allow SSTO (or 1.5STO - SSTO but with small accelerator rockets for initial launch), but it's unclear if it's technically possible.

          • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Not right now. SSTO with chemical rockets is just plain impossible. Weight-to-payload ratio is murderous.

            It's funny, it seems to depend on who's running the numbers whether SSTO is "plain impossible" or not.

            Jerry Pournelle has run the numbers and contended for decades that an SSTO with a liftoff weight of about 600,000 lbs should be able to make orbit, maybe. The problem being that whether or not it makes orbit and how much payload it can carry is in the noise, that we can't tell until we build one and try

            • Ya, well I'm not a rocket scientist either, and I say that Jerry Pournelle is a big fat idiot. Have you read any of the shit he wrote for Byte Magazine? What was it called...Masturbation Manor or something like that? Godddamn that idiot should have taken one of his DOS diskettes and slit his throat with it.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by tsotha (720379)

            Not right now. SSTO with chemical rockets is just plain impossible. Weight-to-payload ratio is murderous.

            I don't think that's been established at all. It's definitely doable if you build a really large rocket. It's not doable for a really small rocket. I think you could probably make it work for a medium-sized vehicle if you didn't have high expectations on payload side. But that's okay, since the point of a rocket like that is to fly often.

            Let me echo the AC that replied mentioning Pournelle. I can't

          • by shiftless (410350)

            Not right now. SSTO with chemical rockets is just plain impossible.

            With willing hearts and skillful hands, the difficult we do at once; the impossible takes a bit longer.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Calinous (985536)

              The issue here is that in the first second of a rocket launch, the thrust of the rocket pushes the empty rocket and all the fuel, while in the middle of the flight the thrust of the rocket pushes the rocket and half the fuel. For the last 10% of the flight, the thrust pushes forward the rocket and 10% of the fuel.
              Now, if we separate the last 10% of the fuel in a detachable rocket with only 10% of the mass of the total launch vehicle, we don't end up with 100% of the speed of the launch

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            SSTO with chemical rockets is just plain impossible.

            For reference, it was once pointed out in a discussion of the feasibility of SSTO that the upper stage of Saturn, with Apollo removed, is capable of reaching orbit on its own.

            In other words, the question is entirely one of economics, not of physical limitations, if a 50 year old rocket design could do a minimal SSTO.

        • Big Differences (Score:3, Informative)

          by DesScorp (410532)

          I think it would be a mistake to assume that. An orbital ship isn't fundamentally any more complicated than a passenger jetliner.

          They're vastly different, not only in terms of what's under the skin (specially engineered components, ultra-hazardous chemicals, etc), but also in terms of economics. Jetliners are designed from the outset to be economical enough to make a profit, not to exceed physical performance goals. If Boeing can't make a jet that makes money for other people, then they drop the project, even if it's interesting. See the Sonic Cruiser for the latest example in a long line of them.

          Private companies, by contrast, are j

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NNKK (218503)

        Reusability is not inherently impractical in a space vehicle, it's just hard, and post-Apollo NASA is spectacularly bad at anything that's hard.

        It's also been 30 years. Advancement in understanding of the challenges, not to mention materials science and engineering, should make it a good deal easier than it was then.

        Also, NASA isn't even in this equation. It's the Air Force asking for it from private contractors, and the USAF has a pretty reasonable track record on their military launch programs.

      • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday May 21, 2010 @11:05PM (#32302200) Journal

        Isn't the shuttle such an albatross precisely because reusability is so impractical?

        Nope. It's because somebody goofed and they made the wings too big. As I heard it back then (caveat: didn't check it myself):

        The shuttle was supposed to be a combined civilian and military vehicle, so the design budgets could be combined and the cost per unit could be brought down by building a bunch of 'em.

        Civilian stuff mostly orbits equatorial and near-equatorial, launching eastward to get a boost from the Earth's rotation. This would be launched east from Canaveral, so crashes would be into the Atlantic. A lot of military stuff orbits polar or near polar, and doesn't get the boost. This would be launched south from Vandenberg, so crashes would be into the Pacific.

        Without the boost from the Earth's rotation you get a significant reduction in payload capacity. There's a rule of thumb for computing this.

        The shuttle lands as a glider. The wings are partly for steering it for cross-track on the way down. The farther the worst-case sideways distance from your orbital track to the landing site is, the bigger the wings you need.

        For typical missions the Shuttle doesn't need much cross-range capability: You just wait for the orbit closest to going right over the landing site and go down then. This happens twice per day. You could get away with little stubby wings like the X-15.

        But the military wanted to be able to run another mission profile: A polar, pop-up, once-around shot, landing back at the launch site. This would be for things like spying in a war or near-war situation, when you'd want to get the shuttle down with the info right away and also before the enemy could shoot it down. Problem with this is that the earth moves the landing zone out from under the orbit and you need a lot of cross-range capability to do it. So you need big wings.

        So they ran a sanity check on whether the polar orbit was still doable with the big, heavy wings needed for this mission. They're heavy, and that weight comes right out of payload, so the payload capacity would be reduced and the cost-per-pound to low orbit raised a bunch. But it looked like the polar orbit could still launch a decent-sized cargo. So they went with the big wings.

        But when they'd run the sanity check they'd applied the rule-of-thumb to the CARGO weight. Somebody had forgotten that, since it also ended up in orbit, the orbiter itself, along with the crew and their consumables, WAS ALSO PART OF THE PAYLOAD. So you have to apply the rule of thumb to the TOTAL weight: Payload, orbiter, consumables, reentry fuel, yadda-yadda-yadda.

        Once they did the computation right it turns out that the shuttle would only have a couple hundred pounds of payload to polar orbit. No launching spy satellites for you! Oops!

        So the military didn't end up using the shuttle (except for a couple equatorial shots testing some gear). They built their own big boosters and went their separate way. The Vandenberg shuttle launch site was demoted to an emergency landing site (so the shuttle could be landed if Canaveral had bad weather and then piggybacked to Canaveral rather than relaunched from Vandenberg). The military didn't buy any craft and the whole cost of construction and operation fell on the civilian projects, raising the cost-per-pound still further.

        • For typical missions the Shuttle doesn't need much cross-range capability: You just wait for the orbit closest to going right over the landing site and go down then. This happens twice per day.

          How often it happens is a product of orbital inclination and orbital altitude, for a typical Shuttle mission it happens on average twice a day.
           

          You could get away with little stubby wings like the X-15.

          That's what the designers of the Shuttle thought too, way back at the start of the design process. Then they actually started doing mission analysis - and discovered how very wrong they were. It turned out that average of only twice a day could leave the crew stranded, unable to reach a safe landing site, for periods of up to eighteen hours. Not good in the event of a problem on orbit, and the only way to fix it was to add cross range capability (read: bigger wings). They also discovered that lack of cross range capability limited the choice of abort scenarios and limited the orbital inclinations the Shuttle could reach. All of this meant the wings started growing - big and fast.
           

          Once they did the computation right it turns out that the shuttle would only have a couple hundred pounds of payload to polar orbit. No launching spy satellites for you! Oops!

          Wrong. Shuttle capacity to polar orbit is notionally 28000 pounds. (Probably greater now with the reduced weight External Tank developed for ISS missions.)
           

          So the military didn't end up using the shuttle (except for a couple equatorial shots testing some gear).

          Wrong again. At least one military Shuttle mission went into a 61 degree orbit. Several launched classified satellites.

    • Re:Sensible (Score:5, Interesting)

      by bkeahl (1688280) on Friday May 21, 2010 @10:06PM (#32301844)
      The Shuttle was a goat from the first test flight. The original design was for fully reusable components and all liquid fuel. Constant budget cuts and politics took a great idea and destroyed it.

      Why solids? A Powerful Senator from Utah, where Morton-Thiokol is based. and NASA's director hailed from as well. Couple that with Congress and the White House back in the early 70's constantly cutting budgets. Solids are easier to design with, just more expensive to operate in a reusable configuration. An alternative solid design by another vendor (Aero-concepts I think) actually had the necessary tangs and O-rings to ensure there wouldn't be a Challenger style disaster - but they weren't based in Utah. As a matter of fact, their proposal was to ship them on barges due to proximity to Kennedy, minimizing the probability of warping - another constant problem caused by shipping the solids from Utah to Florida on train cars.

      Why that big throw-away tank? Because a fly-back vehicle was abandoned due to design budget cuts by Congress. So now we have a throw-away tank and poorly designed solid rocket boosters on a system that was originally intended to have neither.

      It wouldn't surprise me if Congress and the White House doesn't manage to repeat the same mistakes made almost 40 years ago.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tsotha (720379)
        It wouldn't surprise me either, because Congress is far more focused on how many jobs are maintained by the program than they are on efficiency. Creating a vehicle that can be maintained by 20 people instead of 20,000 is really at odds with Congress's interest in the endeavor.
      • Re:Sensible (Score:4, Insightful)

        by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @05:15AM (#32303968) Homepage Journal

        It wouldn't surprise me if Congress and the White House doesn't manage to repeat the same mistakes made almost 40 years ago.

        I think that's why the Air Force wants control of this development project. As long as they can claim the system to be a weapons/national defense platform, they can pretty much tell the rest of the government to keep their hands off the design. This gives them the freedom to develop the booster for whatever mission profiles they want. Of course, that's assuming that the Air Force is funding this with money they already have, rather than asking Congress for more. If they are asking Congress for more money then, yes, the politicos will control this particular project as well.

    • The allusion to the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" should always be complete, i.e., "albatross around the neck", when used in relation to aviation since the albatross is among the most efficient fliers on earth; capable of flying thousands of miles with little expenditure of energy.
    • by Burdell (228580)

      A fly-back booster was in the original design for the shuttle, but was abandoned because it was not cost effective. The cost of making the booster stage fly and be reusable was a good bit more than using the throw-away external tank and recoverable solid boosters. The flight profile lives on the in the never-used RTLS (Return To Launch Sight) abort mode of the shuttle.

  • If flying cars could be made to blow up the enemy, or even just humiliate them, we'd have flying cars. Not to take anything away from the folks at Cal Poly, but I'm still waiting for the next Teflon.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by RsG (809189)

      If flying cars could be made to blow up the enemy, or even just humiliate them, we'd have flying cars. Not to take anything away from the folks at Cal Poly, but I'm still waiting for the next Teflon.

      Helicopters fly, can land or take off from a pad not much bigger than your average driveway, and can be less massive than most trucks. For most values of the word, they are "flying cars". Granted, they don't look like a sedan with jump jets (which is what most people think when they hear the phrase), but it's silly to expect a flying car to resemble a ground car in basic shape. And yes, the military does spend loads on designing, testing, building and fielding choppers for use in war.

      The problem with the

      • by GooberToo (74388)

        Helicopters fly, can land or take off from a pad not much bigger than your average driveway, and can be less massive than most trucks. For most values of the word, they are "flying cars".

        Helicopters have extremely high maintenance requirements and are extremely complex. Furthermore, relative to airplanes, they are extremely dangerous because of their flight profiles, cargo capability, physics of flight, skills required to fly, especially in emergencies, are slow flying compared to planes, are extremely fuel inefficient, and typically far noisier than planes. Not to mention, again relative to airplanes, helicopters (excluding something like an Apache or Cobra) are extremely fragile. And keep

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by SEWilco (27983)
      If we had flying cars, we'd be humiliating various countries constantly by thousands of tourists flying over or past them on the way to all the good tourist destinations. Because a flying car probably won't have the range to cross the Atlantic easily, but it will be able to fly from Alaska to Russia. Tourists going all over the place. Oh.. sorry about that, Hawaii.
  • Simple (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    1) You shouldn't reuse rockets. They are the most stressed components on Earth and space... They're just tubes full of fuel and some fiddly bits. The fiddly bits are not worth trying to reuse. I thought we learned that by now.
    2) OK, so the skin of the rocket, assuming it doesn't do double-duty as fuel tank, should split in 4 like a banana, and turn into a helicopter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by AJWM (19027)

      1) You shouldn't reuse rockets.

      Yeah, you should, because if you use it once and it works, you know it will work again and again (see DC-X). If you build a new one, you won't know until you've flown it.

      This of course assumes that the thing is designed to be flown and re-flown without a complete overhaul between each flight -- i.e. like airplanes not like current Shuttle technology. Or you build a new one for each flight, spend a fortune trying to inspect-in quality, and blow up one in thirty or so anyway.

      • Re:Simple (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 21, 2010 @11:18PM (#32302276)

        I think you gravely misunderstand and underestimate the rigors of rocketry. The stresses encountered are nothing at all like in your car or even a jet turbine. You're basically continually exploding gallons of fuel per second at very high temperatures and pressures. Right on the other side of the bell, you have turbopumps spinning at very high speeds and at cryogenic temperatures. Toss in the monstrous vibrations and stresses, sorry, you DON'T reuse the parts.

        If a rocket flies succesfully, you know the design works, kind of. The engineering is at or beyond the bleeding edge. In the Apollo days there was a lot of fudging and kluging to get the F-1 to work, and the Space Shuttle is no better.

        This is because this stuff is HARD. Materials don't get stronger or behave differently because they're in rockets. They're manufactured, designed and built by humans and are subject to the same limits as any other product,

        Basically, you know the design works, you keep the design. And you build many many many rocket parts. You use those.

        Sort of like Formula One motors. No one reuses them. Why not? No one cares. You build them. You use them, they wear out after 20 hours, and you build another one. Simpler, cheaper, better.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by strack (1051390)
          maybe if you engineer it to the bleeding edge specifications that the space shuttle main engines were built to, but the thing is, you dont need to build them like that, you can build them to be reusable, and still get large amounts of payload into space.
        • Re:Simple (Score:5, Informative)

          by PeterBrett (780946) on Saturday May 22, 2010 @06:46AM (#32304246) Homepage

          Sort of like Formula One motors. No one reuses them. Why not? No one cares. You build them. You use them, they wear out after 20 hours, and you build another one. Simpler, cheaper, better.

          SpaceX regularly test-fire their engines with full mission-duration burns, then use the same engines on their launchers. Their engines are designed for re-use, to the extent of avoiding ablative coatings and materials wherever possible. They've even been careful to design for immersion in salt water so that in theory they can recover first stages, give them a quick going over, and whack them back on the launch pad.

          As someone who works in the space industry, I think that saying, "You shouldn't reuse rockets," is a rather blinkered and negative attitude. With that sort of stance, how could we ever improve the state of the art?

  • Not sure why but I find the thought of a loads of little boosters gliding into base kind of funny. Why is it that weapon delivery systems can be cute too?

  • I have discovered a flaw in their request:
    If the rocket flies back, it did not blow up. Is this desired?
  • by grahamwest (30174) on Friday May 21, 2010 @08:56PM (#32301464) Homepage

    Boeing did a study of making a winged Saturn V first stage back in 1962.

    http://www.astronautix.com/lvs/winturnv.htm [astronautix.com]

    The payload penalty might be problematic. Also, you can't really cluster more than 2 flyback stages due to the size of the wings. If you could use a parafoil and land with skids, that might solve that problem and to be fair western rockets don't really use clustering (Delta IV Heavy being a notable exception).

  • Where has the research being going with that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FleaPlus (6935)

      The new budget revives the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC), which is the part of NASA which previously studied [usra.edu] space elevators. The NIAC was one of the parts of NASA which was cancelled to fund Constellation. Also, there have been a few Centennial Challenges related to space elevators, like the tether challenge and the beam power challenge.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by PPH (736903)
      They haven't figured out how the passengers can survive the Muzak for the duration of the ride.
  • Shuttle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by IdahoEv (195056) on Friday May 21, 2010 @09:17PM (#32301572) Homepage

    Fifteen years of development by committee, and they'll start construction on something that looks exactly like the Shuttle.

    Because this is pretty much exactly where the Shuttle started.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by asm2750 (1124425)
      Agreed, if I was NASA I probably would have kept sinking cash into the X-33 and X-37 projects although from a budget standpoint NASA also gets the short end of the stick. True, the X-33 had design challenges that would take a long time to be worked out but, to me SSTO spacecraft is the most logical next step after the shuttle.
  • We are using 2,300 year old technology... It's time to quit teaching what can't be done, so we can open up to what can be... The subject of propulsion, or mass and inertia would be a good place to start.. Right now our systems are as comical as the old Flash Gordon pointy tin can with sparks(ions?) coming out the back.

    You can't do that, it's impossible!
    Well, nobody told me...

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      The AC wants to know what you propose that is achievable in the next few years. I'd like to know what you're proposing that is achievable.

      • by fustakrakich (1673220) on Friday May 21, 2010 @11:55PM (#32302444) Journal

        Well gee, since you insist. Over the next few years we use what we have, making minor improvements while we're still using it. But a horse can only go so fast and so far. And this tech could never hold up to thousands of daily flights needed for true commercial development. It's way too complex and fragile.

        The more distant future will require an entire rethink of our understanding of nature. If lightspeed is a true brick wall, then we can forget about it. Space travel will remain forever impractical. It would be like being stuck with nothing faster than the old sailing ships and their not exactly great survival rates. I think we're still missing many key ingredients to make these (to me unfathomable) assumptions. So I still have hope.

        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          I'm glad someone modded you funny.

          You suggested reconsidering mass and inertia. Unfortunately we've never found a way of making something go without using reaction mass. Not that lots of people haven't looked.

          As for exceeding the speed of light, there's a LOT we can do without breaking that particular law of physics.

          You said "We are using 2,300 year old technology... It's time to quit teaching what can't be done, so we can open up to what can be," but it seems you're not really familiar with the 2300 year

          • ...there's a LOT we can do without breaking that particular law of physics.

            Transmitting a bit flip to and getting a response from Voyager in less than 26 hours is not one of them. That is unacceptable.

            Nobody has convinced me that everything we know isn't wrong. We only notice the desired results that make us look good. The egos are harder to overcome than the speed limit.

            Are you one of those people that would have me locked up for suggesting that man could fly? Break the sound barrier? Go to the moon? Becau

            • I hate to be a troll but - you are an idiot.

              Do you have any idea how hard some things are? Voyager is 8.5 BILLION miles away. Being able to hit it with a signal is amazing. That the signal is strong enough to be understood - that's taking it to another level altogether. There have been thousands of engineers, working for decades to get that to happen. The fact the speed of light annoys you isn't visionary, it's childish. You are upset because the Universe isn't cooperating with the miracles you think

              • I'm just saying that some day we'll realize the world isn't flat, that's all..

                And there was a time when 8.5 THOUSAND miles was a big deal

        • > I think we're still missing many key ingredients to make these (to me
          > unfathomable) assumptions. So I still have hope.

          But what are you actually doing about it? Get off your ass and invent antigravity!

    • Well ok, get right on it. Tell us what you come up with. If you come up with something good, you'll end up being rich, too.

      Meanwhile back here in the real world, we'll work with what we can.
      • ...we'll work with what we can.

        That's just it, you're not. And you can't when you don't even know what you have. Hint: It's a lot more than you think. You are standing on the beach, and dying from dehydration, and not even collecting the water that falls from the sky. Nature is unbounded. We are the ones who put up the barriers.

        • > That's just it, you're not. And you can't when you don't even know what you
          > have. Hint: It's a lot more than you think.

          Don't hint. Tell us.

          > We are the ones who put up the barriers.

          So take down these barriers you put up.

  • by mr_zorg (259994) on Friday May 21, 2010 @09:26PM (#32301616)

    Lockheed Martin has already launched ... as well as a Cal Poly team ...

    WTF, they launched a Cal Poly team? Where's the copy editors when you need them?

    • by FleaPlus (6935)

      Lockheed Martin has already launched ... as well as a Cal Poly team ...

      WTF, they launched a Cal Poly team? Where's the copy editors when you need them?

      Yeah, sorry about that. :-P I tried rewording it a few different ways while still keeping it short enough for a submission, but didn't have too much luck.

  • Does the USAF want a pony too?

  • This is Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, not Cal Poly Pomona. They both have engineering schools that play with rockets, but only one has a fine arts department that will survive the summer.
    • You know what is bad, I acctually had to Google to find out which one would have a fine arts department that would survive the summer. And I'm a CPSLO student.
      • Well, it will "survive". Just no new entrants. Once this batch has graduated, no more new fine art students (and I pity the graphic design students given the sudden lack of facilities they'll likely have).
  • Air Force Wants Reusable Fly-Back Rockets

    And so do the rest of us!

    Oh wait, I read that as "Air Force Wants Reusable Backpack Rockets".

  • by StefanJ (88986) on Friday May 21, 2010 @11:50PM (#32302422) Homepage Journal

    Actually, take your pick:

    Centuri SST Shuttle [ninfinger.org]

    Centuri Space Shuttle [ninfinger.org]

    Estes Orbital Transport [ninfinger.org]

    Or going way back:

    von Braun Passenger Rocket (1958) [fantastic-plastic.com]

    I was bitterly disappointed that the actual shuttle looked so . . . clunky.

  • Here is the video with better image quality: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLpUgDGjJuw [youtube.com]
  • Reusable flyback rockets. Sure. Newfangled nonsense. Buy a goddamn boomerang already!
  • There has been a similar european project named "Hopper" [wikipedia.org]. It was planned as a first stage for a launch to orbit. Unfortunately it did not get past a glide test with automatic landing of a 1:7 prototype (German article with pictures) [heise.de]. I remember that German state funding was cut after politicians became aware of the project, and comanies unwilling to finance this solely.
  • Flyback rocket sounds like a potentially monumental "Oh shit"-moment waiting to happen...

1: No code table for op: ++post

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