6 posts • joined Thursday 21st August 2008 16:29 GMT
There are currently no alternatives to rocket engines for achieving orbital velocity outside of the atmosphere. Acceleration within the atmosphere is severely limited by atmospheric friction. Even with fancy hybrids, the vast majority of acceleration happens in a vacuum, and that means rockets. A cylindrical tank with engines on the end is the simplest way to do this.
I'd like to see
A plane that can run on nuclear power. Rail may be beat by planes in plain CO2 count, if you count it in a particular way, but railways can take advantage of any improvement in electricity generation. It's the same argument as electric cars. While contemporary electricity generation is 'dirty' gas/oil/coal shortages and the green movement will force future generation to 'clean' sources. Railways will adapt to this transition much easier than planes.
The important question is:
What's the minimum radius you can bend these things to? The flexible OLEDs I've seen demoed before can be flexed a bit - so you won't snap the screen if you sit on it. But there's no way you'd roll one up or fold it clean in half. Something tells me that sort of flexibility will be hard to make robust.
Sounds nothing like...
...the Dynasoar, which was a lifting-body orbit and re-entry craft. It had a detachable 2nd-stage boost module and the whole lot would have sat on top of a Titan rocket for launch. The shuttle has shown that re-using 2nd stage/orbital craft is complex and expensive. A reusable 1st stage is much more simple and the weight constraints are much more relaxed. This is a *good* plan.
The Ares V is too big, and the Ares I is too small (having trouble lifting a fully kitted out Orion capsule).
Solution: Instead of 1 huge and 1 small, why not launch 2 large? That way, you don't have to rebuild the infrastructure, and you only have to design one launch vehicle.
Designed by NASA engineers, but blocked by NASA management.
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