The case for horizontal launch of large exploration payloads

Rodney L. Burton, Kevin Brown, Anthony Jacobi, Gregory Michna

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

Unlike the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Space Shuttle programs, the future pace of NASA's programs for human and robotic space exploration will be driven by the space transportation system budget needed to lift heavy payloads to Earth escape velocity, with total heavy lift costs over 50 years of $100-$200 billion with present technology. This paper uses published cost and performance data to show that neither reusability nor high flight rate nor system improvements can be totally relied upon to lower launch costs significantly for heavy-lift boosters. Analysis of flight systems ranging from commercial aircraft to small expendable boosters to the Space Shuttle shows that launch cost correlates with propulsion system power, where launch costs ∼ (thrust power)1.09, a nearly-linear correlation that can be used to predict launch costs with reasonable accuracy. The case for horizontal launch rests on the large reduction in thrust power, and hence launch costs, possible with these systems. Subsonic, supersonic and launch with air liquefaction cycles are discussed. The paper quantifies important cost factors and predicts significantly lower costs for horizontally launched heavy-lift payloads than for vertical launch, with savings >$100 billion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationA Collection of Technical Papers - 1st Space Ecploration Conference
Subtitle of host publicationContinuing the Voyage of Discovery
Pages1043-1051
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Dec 15 2005
Event1st Space Exploration Conference: Continuing the Voyage of Discovery - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: Jan 30 2005Feb 1 2005

Publication series

NameA Collection of Technical Papers - 1st Space Exploration Conference: Continuing the Voyage of Discovery
Volume2

Other

Other1st Space Exploration Conference: Continuing the Voyage of Discovery
CountryUnited States
CityOrlando, FL
Period1/30/052/1/05

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)

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