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Old 02-11-2019, 09:54 PM
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blackshire blackshire is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
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Default Wingless TSTO & SSTO RLVs (links)

I recently sent the following message to Rocket Lab, which builds the Electron microsat SLV; the included links contain a considerable amount of scale data:
Hello All,

I am a spaceflight historian in Fairbanks, Alaska. While examining the design features of the Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle—including its Sea Level-optimized and vacuum-optimized Rutherford rocket engines—it occurred to me that there are several types of historical suborbital, and also orbital TSTO (Two-Stage-To-Orbit) and SSTO (Single-Stage-To-Orbit), VTOVL (Vertical Take-Off, Vertical Landing) reusable launch vehicle/spacecraft designs that your company could produce, in smaller, Rutherford-powered versions. (Your restartable, monopropellant Curie rocket engine could also be used in reusable VTOVL vehicles of this type [with aerospike or aeroplug altitude-compensating propulsion systems], especially suborbital ones [and a VTOVL, single-stage reusable high-altitude meteorological rocket would also be useful].) These VTOVL vehicles, made in different sizes, could cater to suborbital (scientific [meteorological and sounding rocket-type] and/or suborbital space tourism) and orbital spaceflight needs, and:

Most—but not all—of these historic designs used external-expansion, plug nozzle (aerospike) or aeroplug altitude-compensating engines. In these propulsion systems, several small, conventional bell nozzle or conical nozzle rocket engines exhausted against (or through) either a central plug nozzle (as in the aerospike, an “inside-out” bell or conical nozzle) or the rounded, “space capsule heat shield-like” bottom of the vehicle (this was the aeroplug engine concept). In fact, in these vehicle designs, both the aerospike and aeroplug engines also doubled as base-first, blunt-bottom re-entry heat shields, which were usually actively cooled. (With modern, low-regression [erosion] rate heat shield ablators such as PICA and PICA-X, active cooling of the aerospike or aeroplug—during engine operation and/or re-entry—may be unnecessary, especially with suborbital VTOVL vehicles.) This was done either by pumping the fuel (usually liquid hydrogen, although some more recent VTOVL SSTO designs used kerosene fuel) through cooling passages in the aerospike (and the small conventional rocket engines) and venting it overboard, or by actually running the aerospike engine—at low thrust—during re-entry (this also enabled the vehicles to fly high-crossrange re-entry trajectories, despite their lack of wings!). Here (see: ) are several articles about U.S. and foreign VTOVL SSTO vehicle designs (I have also provided individual links to some of the more prominent ones below [and *here* is information on Chrysler’s SERV SSTO vehicle]). But first:

There are two books that contain valuable SSTO information. They are “Frontiers of Space” by Philip Bono and Kenneth Gatland (see: ) and “Halfway to Anywhere: Achieving America’s Destiny in Space” by G. Harry Stine (see: ). (I’m sure that also carries both of these books.) “Frontiers of Space” covers McDonnell Douglas engineer Philip Bono’s Saturn S-IVB stage-derived SASSTO SSTO vehicle, and his larger Hyperion, Ithacus, Rombus, and Pegasus SSTO craft, all of which used aerospike or aeroplug engines and rocket-powered vertical takeoffs (except Hyperion, which was track-launched) and vertical landings. G. Harry Stine’s “Halfway to Anywhere,” in addition to covering the early history of the Clipper Graham DC-X test vehicle, also chronicles Philip Bono’s, Maxwell Hunter’s, and Gary Hudson’s SSTO designs. It also contains a list—with performance figures—of historic and existing rocket stages that were/are capable of reaching Earth orbit all by themselves while carrying small payloads, which shows that the oft-repeated claim that “SSTO is impossible” is simply untrue. In addition:

There are designs for fully-reusable, TSTO (Two-Stage-To-Orbit) VTOVL launch vehicles that were/are designed like VTOVL SSTO vehicles. One—which was developed for a science fiction novel, but would actually work (which resulted in its designers patenting the design! [here is the patent: ])—is the DH-1 (see: [and Philip Bono’s SASSTO SSTO design is covered directly below the DH-1 on this webpage]), which is featured in the 2005 novel “The Rocket Company” (see: and ). The DH-1 uses conventional bell nozzle rocket engines on its first stage, and what looks like an aeroplug engine on its second stage. While the DH-1’s patent—which will expire in three years, unless renewed for another 17 years—is for its specific design, there is nothing that would prevent Rocket Lab from building a generally similar vehicle. In fact:

A derivation of the DH-1’s design concept could utilize the conventional bell nozzle Rutherford engines on *both* stages. The second stage, which resembles a Jupiter IRBM or Titan II ICBM conical re-entry vehicle, could, like those ballistic missiles’ nose cones, utilize nose-first re-entry (like the somewhat similarly-shaped Discoverer and CORONA spy satellite film “buckets,” and also the Biosatellites, which used the same “bucket” re-entry vehicles to return their payloads to Earth). After re-entry, the second stage could re-orient itself “bottom downward” at low altitude and low airspeed for a rocket-braked vertical landing, by using either attitude control thrusters or a nose-deployed, small drogue parachute. (The first stage could also, if used by itself, function as a reusable suborbital launch vehicle [like a sounding rocket] and/or as a suborbital space tourism spacecraft [the payload or pressurized cabin could separate in space and land separately by parachute, if desired]; for this application, the first stage would have a nose cone/payload fairing or pressurized module [all of which could be reusable, too], which could be shaped like the DH-1’s conical, radiused-tip second stage.) Also, here are other SSTO and “SSTO-style” TSTO vehicle designs:

The following historic designs are covered in “INTRODUCTION TO FUTURE LAUNCH VEHICLE PLANS [1963 – 2001]” by Marcus Lindroos (see: ); his document contains information on—and illustrations of—several VTOVL (Vertical Take-Off, Vertical Landing) SSTO—Single-Stage-To-Orbit—launch vehicles. Smaller vehicles of similar design, powered by Rutherford (or Curie, for quite small vehicles) rocket engines, could be made to cater to suborbital (scientific [sounding rocket] and/or space tourism) and orbital spaceflight needs. These designs include (in Section 1) the DOUGLAS “R.O.M.B.U.S.” [1963], DOUGLAS “R.O.M.B.U.S.” & PROJECT SELENA [1963], DOUGLAS “R.O.M.B.U.S.” & PROJECT DEIMOS [1963], DOUGLAS “PEGASUS” [1964], DOUGLAS “ITHACUS” [1964], NORTH AMERICAN AIR-AUGMENTED VTVL SSTO [1963], DOUGLAS “S.A.S.S.T.O.” [1966], and (in Section 2), the CHRYSLER “S.E.R.V.” [PHASE-A' SHUTTLE] [1971] , plus (in Section 3), the BOEING “LEO” VTVL SSTO [1976] and BOEING 2-STAGE VTVL “HLLV” [1976] (this last one was a two-stage vehicle with SSTO design features, rather like how the DH-1 is). As well, below are links to some of the more prominent SSTO articles on the “Space Future” website:

“Beta, A Single Stage Reusable Ballistic Space Shuttle Concept” (see: )

“History of the Phoenix VTOL SSTO and Recent Developments in Single-Stage Launch Systems” (it also contains several links, see: )

“A Single-Stage-to-Orbit Thought Experiment” (see: )

“Design Study on Propulsion Systems for Space Tourist Carrier Vehicle” (see: )

I hope this information will be useful.

Sincerely Yours,

James Jason Wentworth
Black Shire--Draft horse in human form, model rocketeer, occasional mystic, and writer, see:
All of my book proceeds go to the Northcote Heavy Horse Centre
NAR #54895 SR
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