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Nov17-09, 06:14 PM
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Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
It has a few other advantages
It lets you 'launch' from the best point on Earth for the orbit you require without worrying about where you can build a space center.
That's the argument for sea-based launch platforms, and its a pretty good one. This floating platform would probably have to be launched from a sea-based platform, and then you would have to chase it back down. Altitude and attitude control would be a real problem.

Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
You can launch in any weather, there isn't much weather >50,000ft to mess you up.
Not if the weather is bad when you're getting ready to launch the platform. The weather conditions might have to be even more stringent for a platform that is held aloft by 4 gigantic balloons.

Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
It's easier to build a rocket that only has to operate in very sparse atmosphere than one that has to manage both thick sea level and sparse high altitude conditions.
This might be true, although I wonder if the largest forces at work on a rocket are really aerodynamic or just acceleration in general.

Edit- This depends on the speed of the rocket and when it is during the flight. Most rockets experience Max-Q due to aero drag at about 50,000ft or so.

Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
Steering the rocket is also much easier, at altitude you don't need the high degree of rapid directional control that is needed to get it past the launch tower and clear of surface winds.
How the heck are you going to steer the launch platform around in any kind of surface winds?? Just release it and hope it stays level?

Quote Quote by mgb_phys View Post
This is already being done with the Pegasus system - with a rocket released from under a converted airliner, Virgin Atlantic is also looking at a launch from it's high altitude test aircraft.
I think the real problem is just that rockets capable of reaching orbit with an appreciable payload are BIG, and can't really be carried by an aircraft (especially not in a horizontal orientation).