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originally posted by: anzha
a reply to: PhloydPhan
A bit more commentary on the rocket side of the Mothership:
originally posted by: Forensick
If this aircraft replaces the first stage of a rocket, wouldn't the second stage have to burn for longer to get the projectile up to the speeds a first stage would have generated by the same height?
I cant see point if falcon 9 is a reusable first stage, isn't it better than this?
Still nice to see a new aircraft, I hope it does find a solution to the problem its trying to solve.
The principal advantage of a rocket being launched by a high flying airplane is that it need not fly through the low, dense atmosphere, the drag of which requires a considerable amount of extra work and thus mass of propellant. Higher densities at lower altitudes result in larger drag forces acting on the vehicle. In addition, thrust is lost due to over-expansion of the exhaust at high ambient pressure and under-expansion at low ambient pressure; a fixed nozzle geometry cannot provide optimal exhaust expansion over the full range of ambient pressure, and represents a compromise solution. Rockets launched from high altitude can be optimized for lower ambient pressure, thus achieving greater thrust over the entire operating regime.
Propellant is conserved because the air-breathing carrier aircraft lifts the rocket to altitude much more efficiently with the use of engines that do not require on-board storage of an oxidizer. This allows the launch system to conserve a significant amount of mass that would otherwise be reserved for fuel, reducing the overall size. A larger fraction of the rocket mass can then include payload, reducing payload launch costs. It is also possible to make use of higher-impulse fuels precluded from surface launches due to their toxicity, such as those containing beryllium or fluorine.
Air launch to orbit offers the potential for aircraft-like operations such as launch on demand, and is also less subject to launch-constraining weather. This allows the aircraft to fly around weather conditions as well as fly to better launch points, and to launch a payload into any orbital inclination at any time. Insurance costs are reduced as well, because launches occur well away from land, and there is no need for a launch pad or blockhouse.
Air launch to orbit also works well as part of a combination launch system such as a reusable air-launched Single Stage to Tether launch vehicle powered by a rocket or RBCC engine.
An additional benefit of Air launch to orbit is a reduced delta V needed to achieve orbit. This results in a greater payload to fuel ratio which reduces the cost per unit mass to orbit. To further leverage the Delta V advantage, supersonic air launch to orbit has been proposed.