TMC is an independent, primarily volunteer organization that relies on ad revenue to cover its operating costs. Please consider whitelisting TMC on your ad blocker or making a Paypal contribution here: paypal.me/SupportTMC

Bloostar, SpaceX competition?

Discussion in 'SpaceX' started by JRP3, May 24, 2015.

  1. JRP3

    JRP3 Hyperactive Member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2007
    Messages:
    10,129
    Location:
    Central New York
    #1 JRP3, May 24, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: May 25, 2015
    First stage is a balloon :smile: Balloon space launch system could open space to all - Al Jazeera English

     
  2. rolosrevenge

    rolosrevenge Dr. EVS

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2009
    Messages:
    1,851
    Location:
    Right behind you...
    Maximum payload is 75 kg for the whole rocket, so this will be a very cheap way for launching small satellites, but nothing major. Not competition for Space X really, but it is a positive development if they can get it working.
     
  3. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    4,251
    Location:
    Denali Highway, Alaska
    Is that the Best Use for the one single material for which the term "Non-Renewable/Non-Recyclable Resource" can be applied?

    This technology, were it successful, would be making use of vast amounts of the element helium. They are not, as the saying goes, making any more of it*. Take it up to the skies in balloons and bye, bye element. Nice to make use of you exactly once.

    *Or....start cranking up those fusion reactors. Gotta lot of hydrogen lying around; we can create elemental magic with fusion reactions. I'm sure that's a good use of energy..... ;)
     
  4. Skotty

    Skotty 2014 Model S P85

    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2013
    Messages:
    1,440
    Location:
    Kansas City, MO
    I've seen it suggested elsewhere that a large portion of the energy used in a launch is getting the payload to orbital velocity. Balloons won't help for that. I'd be curious to see the breakdown of how much energy it is to get out of the atmosphere versus up to speed.
     
  5. chickensevil

    chickensevil Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    This is exactly it. Going up is not the hard part... Staying up, is. Because essentially staying in orbit requires you to go forward, very, very quickly to essentially outrun your descent. I don't see how balloons help save much of anything.
     
  6. bxr140

    bxr140 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2014
    Messages:
    615
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Starting at altitude is a legitimate benefit, but its tough to say how much. If you look at the typical mission profile for legacy boosters, first stage separation is usually on the order of, say, 30-70km (give or take). Of course those vehicles have significant [vertical] velocity at that point, but horizontal velocity is, as you note, what you' really looking for...so this launcher dropping off its payload at 20km probably isn't as useless as it seems.

    Another major benefit to this concept is that you don't need a launch facility. That makes the costs lower--both from a capital perspective as well as recurring costs. It makes the launch frequency higher--you can more easily benefit from parallel processing and theres no need to refurb a fixed facility/pad. And...it could lead to flexibility in launch location, which has potential benefits like weather avoidance and simplification of range safety.
     
  7. chickensevil

    chickensevil Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2014
    Messages:
    4,134
    Location:
    Virginia, United States
    I would argue they have significant velocity in general at stage separation. Most rockets are only verticle for the first few seconds after launch. They almost immediately start turning right after liftoff to a more angled launch. It isn't go straight up then turn 90 degrees and boost to the side they are increasing speed and turning at the same time with the goal of ending at a certain height and horizontal speed.

    Launching at 20km just saves a little bit of going up, but you still have to start at 0 velocity and get up to speed very quickly. So other than the other potential benefits your listed, I don't see the height being worth the trouble.

    This reminds me of all the people complaining that modern ships don't have wings and such and how today's capsules are a degrade from where we once were... Wings make sense until you realize that they are utterly pointless once you have no air to provide lift. I think the balloon idea suffers from that same logical failure.
     
  8. Grendal

    Grendal Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2012
    Messages:
    2,521
    Location:
    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    I have to agree. I also have to imagine that the people working at SpaceX can conceive of some pretty spectacular ideas and I personally have heard quite a few myself for getting stuff into orbit. I think the most promising alternative other than using the conventional method with a reusable element is a launch loop. The idea is to fire or throw an object into orbit. Maybe a hybrid of that concept could possibly work even better. Everything else sounds cool but seems to have technical or other issues that would make the whole thing impractical. I was shocked that Elon and SpaceX figured out a method to reuse conventional rockets but now that they seem to almost be there it seems the most simple and elegant solution. Now I mostly wonder where the "sweet spot" is for getting the most bang for your buck. Will the Falcon Heavy be the most practical? Or will it be lots of Falcon 9's getting stuff to orbit? Is one more efficient than the other?
     
  9. bxr140

    bxr140 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2014
    Messages:
    615
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Sort of. They do pitch over, but its mostly to clear the launch pad (for the first stage return and in case of failure), not to gain significant orbital velocity, and thus the velocity vector at low altitudes is still much more vertical than horizontal. The whole idea is to get to orbit using the least amount of propellant, but that (at least on the first order) translates into getting out of the thickest part of the atmosphere using the least amount of propellant. For the record, at first stage separation the vehicle is traveling somewhere around 15-20% of [LEO] orbital velocity, but again most of that is in the vertical direction. At 20km--well below typical first stage separation--the vehicle is moving even more 'vertical'.

    Well, actually...the atmosphere at 20km is ~5% the density at sea level. There are two associated aspects of rocketry where this is a major benefit.

    1. First stage rocket engines, not unlike jet engines, operate over a wide range of atmospheric conditions. They are designed to optimize their performance (mostly via nozzle geometry) over their mission and are thus sub-optimized at any point in time during that mission. By eliminating the huge delta in conditions between 0 and 20km they can get better instantaneous performance--basically, better fuel mileage--from an otherwise identical engine, which means overall better vehicle performance.
    2. The only reason rockets are tall and thin is because of the atmosphere they need to break through at low altitudes. Because aerodynamic losses are significantly lower at 20km, aerodynamic performance of the vehicle is a much less important design criteria. Starting at high altitude with a less aerodynamic vehicle flips space utilization in the vehicle layout on its head and allows the designers to optimize other, potentially more important criteria, like overall mass performance. The nesting toroid stages of Bloostar is, quite frankly, a shocking and mind blowing example of this.

    Funny, I was thinking this reminds me of all the people in the 90's (and still today) that say BEVs will never catch on. :cool:

    That something is different does not mean it is inferior.
     
  10. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2012
    Messages:
    4,502
    Location:
    Maine
    I can imagine the slogan already: Fusion Power Inc: we're squeaky clean.
     
  11. Cosmacelf

    Cosmacelf Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2013
    Messages:
    3,399
    Location:
    San Diego
    That bloostar ship is pretty mind blowing. I hope it succeeds as it would be nice to get some inexpensive small satellite launch capability in the world. I can see it now, own your own personal telecom/spy satellite to give you real time video feeds around you as well as your own sat phone hub.

    But, to reply to the thread title, this can't be SpaceX competition since the payload is way too small.
     
  12. bxr140

    bxr140 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2014
    Messages:
    615
    Location:
    Bay Area
    Rail guns (or whatever) are a pretty cool idea but are fraught with some practical hurdles to overcome, and really aren't practical for use on a large planet with an atmosphere. Something like the moon is a much better application.

    Balloons or aircraft, for the reasons mentioned in this thread, are a very reasonable and potentially cost effective way to get small payloads to orbit, but are of course impractical for heavy lift operations. That's okay though, because there's a developing segment in the space industry that is going to see many more smaller payloads placed in orbit (with an associated cost reduction over legacy mass-to-orbit prices), so there's room for new companies with new ideas.
     
  13. AudubonB

    AudubonB Mild-mannered Moderator Lord Vetinari*

    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2013
    Messages:
    4,251
    Location:
    Denali Highway, Alaska
    Pleeeeease don't condone the waste of helium this way. Please.....

    (unless you can accede to my first post of creating more through H+ fusion....)
     
  14. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Messages:
    15,914
    Location:
    Stanford, California
    This. Helium is a non-renewal resource and is very important for physics research, particularly as a cryogen. The only reason it's on earth in any useful quantity is because it accumulates in the crust via a slow radioactive decay process. Rocket fuel can be synthesized using electricity if necessary, so it can be renewable. Helium, no so much (apart from hydrogen fusion).

    However, I don't know the details of this Bloostar. In theory the balloon stage could include a compressor to reduce the buoyancy and recover the helium.
     
  15. Johan

    Johan Took a TSLA bear test. Came back negative.

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2012
    Messages:
    6,890
    Location:
    Drammen, Norway
    Just like in the movie "Kingsman" in the end where the girl agent is brought up in the stratosphere by two balloons that keep inflating as she goes higher and higher (due to decreased pressure on the outside). And as she gets to the stratosphere (to shoot down a satellite!) they pop.
     
  16. ItsNotAboutTheMoney

    ItsNotAboutTheMoney Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2012
    Messages:
    4,502
    Location:
    Maine
    Helium is also used to create rocket fuel and provide cooling. It's all relative.

    But yes, H+ fusion would be great, and I think ITER's trying to do it. It'll use helium for cooling, but helium will also be a by-product of the fusion.
     
  17. rolosrevenge

    rolosrevenge Dr. EVS

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2009
    Messages:
    1,851
    Location:
    Right behind you...
    Couldn't H2 gas work as well to raise it up? I mean, I know it's flammable but what other reason is there to not use it?
     
  18. doug

    doug Administrator / Head Moderator

    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2006
    Messages:
    15,914
    Location:
    Stanford, California
    Hydrogen is actually slightly more buoyant. However, besides flammability, there are some environmental concerns about releasing it in the atmosphere. Things like ozone depletion and extending the lifetime of methane. I don't know that anyone is sure how severe those effects would be, though.

    Like everything, cost versus benefit. It's all relative, as someone said above.
     
  19. Johan

    Johan Took a TSLA bear test. Came back negative.

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2012
    Messages:
    6,890
    Location:
    Drammen, Norway
    At some point in the atmosphere, as it gets thinner, the lifting force of the air being displaced will be cancelled out by the weight if the balloons + payload (like Archimede's principle, right?). In theory it should hoover there. Then there's the problem of starting the booster rockets in a predictable way while hovering from the balloon. Sounds difficult.
     
  20. rolosrevenge

    rolosrevenge Dr. EVS

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2009
    Messages:
    1,851
    Location:
    Right behind you...
    I would imagine that the amount of hydrogen released from rocket launch would have negligible effects since the volume is so tiny.
     

Share This Page