Ask the Right Questions

Part of this process is knowing which questions to ask, and this requires vision also. Asking the right questions is a good thing, but answering them correctly is even better. Here is a short list of a few basic questions, together with my answers. These questions already assume that you have already chosen spaceplanes over ballistic capsules or wingless launch vehicles.

• Should Iperch my spaceplane on top ofmy rocket?

No - too much dead weight. Your booster will be too expensive to operate, unless you are already rich.

• Should I mount my spaceplanepiggyback?

No - too costly and operationally complex. Again, you will go broke before you get off the ground (Fig. 11.4).

• Should I use a mothership?

Fig. 11.4 It is time for piggyback spaceplanes to grow up (courtesy NASA)
Fig. 11.5 Only baby spaceplanes are carried by their mothers. This is the X-1-3 being carefully mated to an elevated EB-50A Superfortress. A typical government operation (courtesy NASA)
Fig. 11.6 The Douglas Skyrocket was capable of taking off under its own power in certain configurations. It therefore represents the proper approach to mature spaceplane development (courtesy NASA)

No - again, this is too complex and costly in the long run, because you have to operate two vehicles (Fig. 11.5).

• Should I let my spaceplanefly on its own?

Yes. This way it can mature into a proper SSTO spaceplane in time. Like the kid that never had training wheels, this little spaceplane will develop superior capabilities by itself (Fig. 11.6).

• What kinds ofpropellants should I use?

Liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen - water electrolyzed. This way you can ship water through space, and someday refuel there. This answer requires clear vision.

• What is wrong with easy-to-use-fuels such as kerosene or methane?

With these fuels you cannot refuel in LEO, and that cancels the future. Also, they pollute.

• Should I lift offvertically or take offhorizontally?

Horizontally - the main reason is passenger safety and comfort, but it also enables conventional operations.

• Should I operate my crewless spaceplane by remote control?

Remember DC-X and X-33? Besides, who wants to ride in a pilotless spaceplane?

• What kind of engine should I use?

The most advanced air-breathing turborocket you can find, assuming good reliability.

• Ido not have a turborocket handy. Should I usejet engines in addition to my rocket engines?

Yes. Auxiliary jets will increase safety and enable you to light off from high altitude. A single crash without jets installed, and you are finished. Jets will increase ticket sales, too.

• What is the single most importantfactor in my spaceplane design? Safety, which is the reason you chose wings to begin with.

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