Deliver the Package

Spaceplanes today are in an infantile stage of development. As we have seen, they all either ride piggyback or rely on the nestling wing of a large mothership. But they have a lot of development potential. They could soon replace sounding rockets, reducing costs in this market by immediately introducing full reusability. They will shortly take passenger-tourists on space experience flights above the official 100 km space height. This event, the first suborbital spaceplane flight with a paying passenger, will open the floodgates. There will be a surge of development as investors begin to realize the potential. As they continue to grow and improve, spaceplanes will eventually become capable of orbital spaceflight, without the assistance of an auxiliary booster, drop-off stages, or a carrier aircraft. At this point, they will be pressed into service as space tankers, transporting pure water to orbiting propel-lant depots, to the Moon, and someday from the Moon. All the while, they will continue to provide regular service to a wider and wider array of space travelers. Spaceplanes will deliver the package, and do it far more cheaply, far more efficiently, and far more safely than will primitive ballistic rockets.

Fig. 11.8 Infant spaceplane prototype, the Spiral spaceplane in Soviet colors. CCCP is Russian for SSSR, which stands for Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) (courtesy http://www.buran-energia.com)

Fig. 11.8 Infant spaceplane prototype, the Spiral spaceplane in Soviet colors. CCCP is Russian for SSSR, which stands for Soyuz Sovietskikh Sotsialisticheskikh Respublik (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) (courtesy http://www.buran-energia.com)

To deliver the space packages of the future, whether these packages take the form of bulk cargo, liquid propellants, or passengers, good spaceships are required. Missiles and modules will never become good spaceships, regardless of how far they evolve. Spaceplanes, by contrast, have a very real potential to grow into the best spaceships of all.

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