Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quicklaunch series: Sprint rockets

I've just added this as a new category because I think it is an interesting concept which I want to explore further.

In order to follow this thread, click on that label which follows this post.  All posts on that subject will come up and you can easily follow it there.  At the moment of this writing, I've not attached all the labels yet.  By the end of the morning, that task should be complete.

I'll write a post for today on this subject, and I've already updated the previous post.  I'm adding it again on the top post because I want to emphasize the point.

On the recent Space Show, John Hunter spoke of Sprint rockets, which were part of an operational program, albeit short lived, which were designed for missile defense.  The program was discontinued almost immediately, which, in retrospect, appears to be another one of the inexplicable actions of our failing government.  If there was one program that definitely should not have been scrapped, it was this one.

But that is beside the point of this post, but the point is well taken in connection with the rest of this blog.  As long as I'm referring to my dissatisfaction with this ridiculous decision making process that we seemed to be afflicted with these days, I'll remind anyone interested that I have a entire category dedicated to that subject.

No, the point is that these rockets were very, very fast.  Since "Charles"  (Pooley) of Micro Launchers called to challenge John Hunter of Quicklaunch on  this concept, a bit of devil's advocacy led to investigate the feasiblility of the idea.    Sprint rockets are fast, but not as fast as Hunter's Quicklaunch vehicle.  The top speed of the Sprint was Mach 10, which it reached very quickly.  Thermal issues appeared to be of concern, so Charles' objections need to be answered, I would think.  Running some numbers that's about 7600 mph for the Sprint and 13000 mph for the Quicklaunch.  Hunter needs to explain how he can protect his payload when the thermal issues are going to me much greater than the Sprint.  Hunter responded to Charles by asking him to prove it on the blackboard, which Hunter says he's already done.

The Sprint webpage, referred to above, does not rule out the possibility of Quicklaunch.  That's key.  It only says that:
Within seconds, the missile reached a speed of Mach 10+, and the extreme thermodynamic heating demanded sophisticated ablative shielding (the nose was already glowing red-hot less than a second after launch).

This is probably a similar technology which the shuttle used upon reentry.

Hunter's idea is to put his payload inside, but that may be a problem because of the intense heat, and the extraordinary amount of high g acceleration.

As for the blackboard component of this discussion, Hunter mentioned Johns Hopkins, which I will go to next.   However, I'm probably not qualified to get very far with that.  My math skills are not that advanced.

Update: approx 2pm

I found one pdf file associate with John Hopkins.  It did indeed have John Hunter included amongst the authors.  One thing that I found was that his numbers appear to be much better than the ones mentioned in this file.  The report does say that this method of launching satellites- using gas guns- is technically feasible.

Unless Hunter knows more than what was reported in this 1999 file, I'd say his claims run the risk of being overblown.  It will fly, most likely, but for what purpose?  If the costs really are as attractive as he claims, which I can't see in this report, this could be a viable new option.

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