EI321
Topic Author
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Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 2:56 am

Quote:


Air launching two six-person suborbital vehicles from the back of a specially modified Airbus A380 Freighter is possible, according to a mid-term review of a European Union (EU) study held on 25 April.


http://www.flightglobal.com/articles...uld-air-launch-space-tourists.html

Big version: Width: 850 Height: 560 File size: 53kb


Very interesting IMO.
 
DfwRevolution
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:11 am

Sharks with lasers would also be very interesting to see, and I'm sure the U.S. Navy could produce a study validating their worth.

Using the A380 to launch sub-orbital spacecraft is a woefully impractical idea on so many levels, and it screams of a worried EU looking for some new application of an aircraft that just isn't selling.
 
corey07850
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:12 am

Quoting EI321 (Thread starter):
Very interesting IMO.

Glad to see the EU is grounded in reality... Can we get the passenger version in service first??

The freighter's future is up in the air, and they have plans to launch space vehicles from it???

BTW your link doesn't work
 
bohica
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:12 am

Quoting EI321 (Thread starter):
http://www.flightglobal.com/articles...uld-air-launch-space-tourists.html

When you click on the link, it says bad request.
 
DfwRevolution
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:15 am

Quoting Bohica (Reply 3):
When you click on the link, it says bad request.

It looks like the A.net code just chopped the URL on accident. Here is the link:

Airbus A380F Could Air Launch Space Tourists
 
n844aa
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:15 am

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 1):
Using the A380 to launch sub-orbital spacecraft is a woefully impractical idea on so many levels, and it screams of a worried EU looking for some new application of an aircraft that just isn't selling.

I've read once that if you can get a launch vehicle up to 45,000 feet or so, the energy necessary to take it the rest of the way up is substantially reduced, so much that the idea isn't entirely impractical. There's an L-1011 used for this purpose. I doubt it's capable of launching a six-person vehicle, however, even a suborbital one.

Agreed, however, that this alone would seem to be a foolish reason to build the A380F. I'm sure Burt Rutan's design is vastly cheaper and vastly more efficient, and will achieve substantially the same purpose.
New airplanes, new employees, low fares, all touchy-feely ... all of them are losers. -Gordon Bethune
 
bohica
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:28 am

Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 4):
It looks like the A.net code just chopped the URL on accident. Here is the link:

Airbus A380F Could Air Launch Space Tourists

Thanks.

I just don't see this happening. The A380F is on the back burner indefinitely. Airbus isn't going to build the A380F just to be a mothership for spacecraft. That would be way too expensive.

What is the possibility the spacecraft can be launched from a current plane like the C5, C17, or the AN124?
 
DfwRevolution
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehic

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:31 am

Quoting N844AA (Reply 5):
I'm sure Burt Rutan's design is vastly cheaper and vastly more efficient, and will achieve substantially the same purpose.

I don't necessarily agree with that either. Scaled Composites has shown they can build some incredibly specialized aircraft, but to air-launch a six-passenger vehicle, you really just need something that can lift a vehicle up to altitude. In that regard, a second-hand 777-200 or A340-300 with modification would be more than adequate for air launching a single six-passenger vehicle. **

Now, how does the EU study expect to make practical use out of launching two such vehicles from a single flight? There may very well be an enthusiastic market for space tourist, but to have sufficient demand to regularly fill both aircraft seems wildly optimistic. The economics of scale from launching a second vehicle would not lower the price per seat sufficient enough to allow space tourism to the masses. Even if such demand did exist, land your 777 or A340, hook-up another vehicle, and fly a second flight.

The first rule of business is keep your costs low, and modifying a new-build A380 is not a sound strategy.

------------

** Edit - less I forget that there are already two 747-100 modified to carry spacecraft to altitude and release them, that will also happen to be unemployed after 2011.

[Edited 2007-04-29 20:35:21]
 
XT6Wagon
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:32 am

Quoting Bohica (Reply 6):
I just don't see this happening. The A380F is on the back burner indefinitely. Airbus isn't going to build the A380F just to be a mothership for spacecraft. That would be way too expensive.

It would be possible to produce only one or two as seen by the 744LCF, but I doubt that it would be a good idea even with A380F parts laying around gathering dust.
 
EI321
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:33 am

I dont see why it has to be the Freighter model rather than the passenger model.
 
aminobwana
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:51 am

[

Quoting Bohica (Reply 6):
SUGGEST DELETIONSELECTED TEXT QUOTED_

Bohica From United States, joined Feb 2004, 852 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted Sun Apr 29 2007 12:28:19 your local time (13 secs ago) and read 0 times:


Quoting DfwRevolution (Reply 4):
It looks like the A.net code just chopped the URL on accident. Here is the link:

Airbus A380F Could Air Launch Space Tourists

Thanks.

I just don't see this happening. The A380F is on the back burner indefinitely. Airbus isn't going to build the A380F just to be a mothership for spacecraft. That would be way too expensive.

What is the possibility the spacecraft can be launched from a current plane like the C5, C17, or the AN124?

I add to the possible candidate list: The B747-Dreamlifter !! As it is designed to carry ultra-bulky
items and no other applications are foreseen, possibly it could be used as it is, with only minor
applications. As this is a problem of bulk and not weight, the non-existent A380F would be a overshot !
The other aircrafts you cite are for multiple applications and possibly would need some modifications.

But obviously the EU has only focused on the A380F, as EADS was a memebr of the EU study group.

aminobwana
 
EI321
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 3:59 am

Quoting Aminobwana (Reply 10):
But obviously the EU has only focused on the A380F, as EADS was a memebr of the EU study group.

 Yeah sure

Quoting Aminobwana (Reply 10):
What is the possibility the spacecraft can be launched from a current plane like the C5, C17, or the AN124?

I add to the possible candidate list: The B747-Dreamlifter !! As it is designed to carry ultra-bulky
items and no other applications are foreseen, possibly it could be used as it is, with only minor
applications

The dreamlifter would be no use for launching spacecraft compared to the other aircraft mentioned. If an aircraft is needed to piggy back a spaceceaft, the NASA 747 and the AN225 can aleeady do it, but thats just for transporting it, not launching.

The A380 is probably used here due to its high payload capabilities as this vehicle probably needs boosters.
 
mham001
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehic

Mon Apr 30, 2007 4:14 am

NASA has already done this years ago, although it was launching smaller vehicles.

http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/M2-F2/Small/ECN-1436.jpg
http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/gallery/photo/X-38/Small/EC99-45080-25.jpg

[Edited 2007-04-29 21:18:36]
 
ikramerica
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 4:51 am

I don't get why the A380F is the best vehicle for this. Is it because of the 4 engines?
Of all the things to worry about... the Wookie has no pants.
 
EI321
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 4:57 am

Quoting Ikramerica (Reply 13):
I don't get why the A380F is the best vehicle for this. Is it because of the 4 engines?

I suspect its just the aircrafts size combined with its MTOW. But I dont see why they specifically mention the Freighter rather than the Passenger version.

[Edited 2007-04-29 21:57:59]
 
defaerosales
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 5:29 am

Quoting N844AA (Reply 5):
There's an L-1011 used for this purpose. I doubt it's capable of launching a six-person vehicle, however, even a suborbital one.

You may be referring to Pegasus ( Pegasus Project ). This is an Orbital Sciences project which has completed over 30 missions launching small (~ 1000 lb) satellites into Low Earth Orbits.

Edited to try and make link operative

[Edited 2007-04-29 22:33:18]
 
777236ER
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 5:44 am

747s with giant lasers on board to shoot down missiles is also a pretty ridiculous idea. Oh wait.
Your bone's got a little machine
 
Rheinbote
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 6:21 am

Air launching two six-person suborbital vehicles from the back of a specially modified Airbus A380 Freighter is possible, according to a mid-term review of a European Union (EU) study held on 25 April.

'Possible'...a great many things are 'possible'. What a waste of time and resources. It is also entirely possible that this is just another EU-funded token study solely intended to feed 'easy money' to whoever the contractor is .  sarcastic 
 
kaneporta1
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Mon Apr 30, 2007 7:27 am

The A380F could launch a space vehicle. But who's gonna launch the A380F???
I'd rather die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather, not terrified and screaming, like his passengers
 
TheRonald
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 12:42 am

Quoting Corey07850 (Reply 2):
BTW your link doesn't work

DITTO  Confused
I already have the quilty concious, may as well have the money, too.
 
dw747400
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 1:05 am

Quoting EI321 (Reply 11):
the NASA 747 and the AN225 can aleeady do it, but thats just for transporting it, not launching.

The 747s are quite capable of releasing a shuttle--the problem lies with the shuttle's need for external fuel. The other limitation would be the 26,000 foot ceiling NASA has imposed, though I'm not sure if these are extra-conservative numbers or realistic limitations imposed by the structural modifications.

AN-225 would be a great platform for this. Ultimately, I agree that a much more practical approach would be launching a single vehicle from a smaller, cheaper jet.
CFI--Certfied Freakin Idiot
 
EI321
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 1:15 am

Quoting Dw747400 (Reply 20):
AN-225 would be a great platform for this. Ultimately, I agree that a much more practical approach would be launching a single vehicle from a smaller, cheaper jet.

I think the cost of modifying a jet is a minority in comparison to the cost of a new space vehicle.
 
cygnuschicago
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 2:13 am

Quoting EI321 (Reply 21):
I think the cost of modifying a jet is a minority in comparison to the cost of a new space vehicle.

Russia's An-225 was proposed to be adapted for the MAKS system (http://www.aerospaceguide.net/space_planes/maks.html).

Quoting N844AA (Reply 5):
I've read once that if you can get a launch vehicle up to 45,000 feet or so, the energy necessary to take it the rest of the way up is substantially reduced, so much that the idea isn't entirely impractical.

Frankly I see no need for a subsonic aircraft launching a spacecraft. What matters for rocket launches is Delta-V, not height. If the A380F carried the aircraft up to say 30,000 ft, it would still only be flying at Mach 0.85, and not at the required angle of launch. You really don't gain much.
If you cannot do the math, your opinion means squat!
 
Lemurs
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 2:34 am

Quoting CygnusChicago (Reply 22):
Frankly I see no need for a subsonic aircraft launching a spacecraft. What matters for rocket launches is Delta-V, not height. If the A380F carried the aircraft up to say 30,000 ft, it would still only be flying at Mach 0.85, and not at the required angle of launch. You really don't gain much.

You're thinking in terms of physics, not logisitics. With flight-launched aircraft you get:

1) Ability to fly where the weather is good, meaning no costly launch delays.
2) No ground facility costs. Launch pads, range equipment, etc...are more costly to maintain than a well-known and understood converted airplane.
3) Favorable launch latitudes. Need an equatorial launch for best payload? Why try and buy a ton of land there? Just fly there!
4) Simplified nozzle design on the first stage, as it doesn't need to handle the higher density air like a sea-level launch would.
5) Reduced safety and insurance costs, because you can launch over the ocean. (Insurance costs for any orbital launch attempt are decidedly expensive.)

The cost of entry for smaller players is dramatically reduced over ground-based launching.
There are 10 kinds of people in the world; those who understand binary, and those that don't.
 
rwessel
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 3:56 am

Quoting CygnusChicago (Reply 22):
Frankly I see no need for a subsonic aircraft launching a spacecraft. What matters for rocket launches is Delta-V, not height. If the A380F carried the aircraft up to say 30,000 ft, it would still only be flying at Mach 0.85, and not at the required angle of launch. You really don't gain much.

It's significantly more complicated than "just delta-V." Two factors that must be considered include avoiding a lot of flight through dense atmosphere with correspondingly high amounts of air friction, and second, you cannot consider just delta-V during a launch from a planetary surface, since a significant amount of thrust has to be expended just to counteract gravity, and that amount varies greatly as horizontal velocity changes. Nor are those requirements curves simple - in an effort to get through the dense atmosphere quickly launches usually start much more vertical than you'd expect, and transition to a mainly horizontal thrust line much earlier than you'd expect (with the launch vehicle having a significant residual positive vertical velocity from the early part of the flight). Taking off from an airless world, you'd normally fly a much flatter launch trajectory (all other things being equal).

But anyway, even if it were just a matter of delta-V, the extra 500mph (about 230m/s) gained by launching from an airplane would reduce the fuel requirements by about 7%, hardly trivial. That would be comparing equatorial launches to LEO, one from a point stationary with respect to the earth surface (IOW, moving east at about 460m/s), and the second, aircraft launch, with a net east velocity at launch of 690m/s, with a 5000m/s exhaust velocity (in the range you'd expect for LOX/LH).

Remember that the fuel mass required grows exponentially (relative to a constant "empty" vehicle mass) with the delta-V required, even small reductions in required delta-V (at least one the delta V starts getting close to the exhaust velocity), have significant impact on the required amount of fuel. The general rocket equation is a harsh mistress.

Combined with avoiding the denser atmosphere and the quicker drop off in the thrust needed for "hovering", the savings is significantly greater than the simple delta-V only calculation would suggest.
 
cygnuschicago
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 9:31 am

Quoting Rwessel (Reply 24):
But anyway, even if it were just a matter of delta-V, the extra 500mph (about 230m/s) gained by launching from an airplane would reduce the fuel requirements by about 7%, hardly trivial

Not sure how you get the 7% reduction. If you consider a standard equitorial LEO launch, you need about 30,000 fps to get into orbit, and that includes the gravity and drag penalty. If you launch at Mach 0.85 at a 25 degree inclination, you gain about 1,500 fps delta-V over vertical ground launch, and this includes the penalty for pitching the rocket up, but excludes any "drop" penalty, a la X-15.

So, 5% Delta-V gain, but you have to pay fuel for an A380 flight, plus some kind of booster rocket to pitch the behemoth up 25 degrees. Effectively, you're just going to save on some oxidizer. If I recall correctly, Boeing and Thiokol flirted with an AirLaunch (name of the program) concept in 1999 using a 777.

However, I also just reread the article - seems they're talking sub-orbital, so more benefit in that.
If you cannot do the math, your opinion means squat!
 
rwessel
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RE: Airbus A380 Freighter Could Launch Space Vehicle

Tue May 01, 2007 6:47 pm

Quoting CygnusChicago (Reply 25):
Not sure how you get the 7% reduction. If you consider a standard equitorial LEO launch, you need about 30,000 fps to get into orbit, and that includes the gravity and drag penalty. If you launch at Mach 0.85 at a 25 degree inclination, you gain about 1,500 fps delta-V over vertical ground launch, (...)

The basic amount of reaction mass (for a rocket that's fuel plus oxidizer) to achieve a given delta-V is given by the general rocket equation (also known as the Tsiolkovsky rocket equation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_equation ).

In short, for a vehicle mass of 1, the required reaction mass is M=(e**(delta-v/Ve)-1). Where Ve is the exhaust velocity. Note that the nature of the reaction mass does not matter, just its velocity. You can be throwing rocks, ions or superheated steam out the back end at 5000m/s, and it's all the same.

This is basically the rocket version of the Breguet range equation.

Anyway, The better liquid bi-propellants (for example, LOX/LH) manage a Ve of about 5000m/s, or about 16,400 ft/s. Using that, to get 30,000ft/s of delta-V, requires about 5.5 units of reaction mass. So if your single stage vehicle ended up weighing 100,000lbs at burn out, it would weigh 650,000lbs at the start, 550,000lbs being reaction mass (aka fuel and oxidizer). Reducing the delta-V requirement to 28,500ft/s, reduces that to about 4.9 units of reaction mass, or a starting vehicle mass of 590,000lbs (490,000lbs of fuel), or a reduction in fuel/oxidizer requirements of about 10.5%. And that assumes that there are no secondary benefits (for example, lighter structures) from reducing the fuel load.

The point is that reaction mass requirements are exponential as the desired delta-V increases relative to the exhaust velocity, and delta-V's greater than about three times the exhaust velocity are basically impractical (at three times you've got 95% of the starting mass of the vehicle being fuel, at four times, it's well over 98%, at five times, it's 99.4%). You're only hope is to reduce the final vehicle mass or increase the exhaust velocity. The first is the reason for staging, and the second is why ion drives are so attractive - the exhaust velocity is very, very high. Unfortunately, staging is still problematic, as each lower stage tends to grow substantially relative to the one above it, and exhaust velocities have stagnated at about the 5000m/s mark for engines that generate the significant amounts of instantaneous thrust required for a launch from earth.

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