Can I build an SSTO spaceplane if I win the lottery?

In summary, Ben believes that it is possible to build an SSTO spaceplane for $16 billion, but believes that SpinLaunch's prototype is not going to work. He is unsure if he is qualified to make this decision.
  • #1
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Hi,

As I was swimming laps at my local swimming pool today, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to start playing the lottery. If I won the lottery, maybe I could fund an effort to make a small SSTO spaceplane. What is your opinion? Is it possible? I would try to make it as small and as cheap as possible. It wouldn't carry any payload or crew. Just get to orbit. Also, no need to come back.

I tried to do my due diligence on this before posting. I found out about Radian One. They think they can build an SSTO spaceplane for $16 billion. However, theirs is crewed, carries payload, and is reusable. I would do away with those three features.

This would be just for fun, if I won the lottery.

Thanks,
Ben
 
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  • #2
benswitala said:
maybe I could fund an effort to make a small SSTO spaceplane
"SSTO = Something-Something to Orbit?" Or should I know what you are referring to?

And you know the saying about playing the Lottery, right? Something about it being meant for people who are bad at math*.

*Disclaimer, I still play the Lottery sometimes... :wink:
 
  • #3
berkeman said:
SSTO = Something-Something to Orbit?
Usually it means Single Stage To Orbit.
 
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  • #4
Which lottery? If you win a billion dollar jackpot it might be possible to put a small single stage rocket into orbit.
 
  • #5
berkeman said:
"SSTO = Something-Something to Orbit?" Or should I know what you are referring to?

And you know the saying about playing the Lottery, right? Something about it being meant for people who are bad at math*.

*Disclaimer, I still play the Lottery sometimes... :wink:
Gosh, berkeman, haven't you played Kerbal Space Program? SSTO stands for Single Stage to Orbit.

I'm not worried about being bad at math. After all, this is a physics problem, not a math problem, right?
 
  • #6
russ_watters said:
Which lottery? If you win a billion dollar jackpot it might be possible to put a small single stage rocket into orbit.
I was thinking this effort might cost between one and two billion dollars. Radian One says theirs will take 15 billion dollars. My intuition says I could maybe make their ship at one tenth the scale. If the cost scales down linearly, then my effort would be 1.5 billion dollars. However, hopefully it could be cheaper, because I wouldn't be going for those three key features that I mentioned. But I don't want the ship to take off vertically, I want it to take off horizontally.
 
  • #7
benswitala said:
But I don't want the ship to take off vertically, I want it to take off horizontally
Why?
 
  • #8
You might consider looking at SpinLaunch's prototype proof-of-concept.
 
  • #9
benswitala said:
I was thinking this effort might cost between one and two billion dollars. Radian One says theirs will take 15 billion dollars. My intuition says I could maybe make their ship at one tenth the scale. If the cost scales down linearly, then my effort would be 1.5 billion dollars. However, hopefully it could be cheaper, because I wouldn't be going for those three key features that I mentioned. But I don't want the ship to take off vertically, I want it to take off horizontally.
Costs do not scale linearly with size. This is because many of the problems that have to be solved are not dependent on size. As you note, costs do vary with features but it is difficult to apply a scale factor to features.
 
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  • #10
phinds said:
Why?
It would be cool
 
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  • #11
DaveC426913 said:
You might consider looking at SpinLaunch's prototype proof-of-concept.
I don't think SpinLaunch is a good idea. It won't work.
 
  • #12
benswitala said:
I want it to take off horizontally.
As far as I am aware SSTO more or less requires air-breathing when in the atmosphere, using scramjet or similar for instance, which sets some unique conflicting design constraints that are hard to solves in a reliable way. For instance, balancing the air intake area vs acceleration vs speed vs atmospheric height. I haven't followed the practical work for SSTO in some years in any detail, but I understand airbreathing is still considered the most feasible way to achieve SSTO, if it is at all possible.

By the way, the wikipedia page for scramjet has a reference to a 2003 paper which discusses SSTO engine and vehicle design options that may be of interest to you.
 
  • #13
benswitala said:
It would be cool
So you don't care whether or not it would be effective.
 
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  • #14
benswitala said:
I don't think SpinLaunch is a good idea. It won't work.
Are you sure that - as an eager but perhaps a little wide-eyed engineer yourself - you're really qualified to make that call?
 
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  • #15
In the 1980s until 1990, the US government spent something like $1B developing the National Aero-Spaceplane (NASP) program, i.e., the Rockwell X-30. That is about $2.3B in today's dollars. It got absolutely nowhere near being even an operational prototype, and the unit cost of the finished vehicle was expected to be about $1B each (so, again, about $2.3B in today's dollars).

Now, NASP was extremely over-ambitious for the technology of the time. It was 160 ft long and was attempting to have a 300,000 lb payload. It was a bit like trying to code the Windows operating system for your first coding project. You could certainly scale that back and reduce the cost.

Still, it's unlikely that $1B for development would put much of a dent into the cost. Consider that a SSTO spaceplane is a hypersonic vehicle: a topic into which the US Department of Defense is dumping several billion dollars per year.
 
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  • #16
boneh3ad said:
a topic into which the US Department of Defense is dumping several billion dollars per year
Now return-to-launch-site fully reusable boosters has been proven not only viable but also highly launch cost reducing it is difficult to see the business case for true SSTO, even if hypersonic airbreathers one day would become operational. Do any of the US DoD hypersonic programs have SSTO as (ultimate) goal?
 
  • #17
Filip Larsen said:
Now return-to-launch-site fully reusable boosters has been proven not only viable but also highly launch cost reducing it is difficult to see the business case for true SSTO, even if hypersonic airbreathers one day would become operational. Do any of the US DoD hypersonic programs have SSTO as (ultimate) goal?
SSTO would still be hypothetically cheaper if it ever becomes feasible on account of the fact that you have to carry far less oxidizer with you so your mass goes down considerably for the same payload. But that's a big "if." Hypersonic air-breathers  are operational now, but they still require boosters (i.e., a two-stage system). Combined-cycle propulsion is still a work in progress as far as I know.

DoD is focused more on strike and missile defense right now as opposed to space access (at least, according to their publicly released documents). There are companies looking at space access applications, I believe, but it's more the realm of startups for now.
 
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  • #18
Sounds like you want to re-invent Skylon. Horizontal take-off, air-breathing engines until it transitions to pure rocket propulsion. Uncrewed, $12 billion estimated development cost over more than 10 years, with the idea to sell individual vehicles for $1 billion each.
 
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  • #19
mfb said:
Sounds like you want to re-invent Skylon.
Interesting. But those landing gear look pretty undersized for a 700,000 pound craft... :wink:

440px-Skylon.svg.png


A special runway will be required for launch: it needs to be reinforced to tolerate the high equivalent single wheel load;[75] necessitated by the Skylon's 325 tonnes takeoff weight; it will need to have heat resistant sections[citation needed] at the start of the take-off run and at the rotation zone;[76] and it will have to be 5.9 kilometres (3.7 mi) long[76] to allow the Skylon to accelerate to its 155-metre-per-second (300 kn) rotation speed,[77] yet still have 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) to abort the launch and brake to a standstill if required. The Skylon would be able to land on a 3.2 kilometres (2.0 mi) Code F civil runway.[76]
 
  • #20
benswitala said:
It would be cool
It's not clear how serious you are being in this thread,
 
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  • #21
Vanadium 50 said:
It's not clear how serious you are being in this thread,
Seems like not very
 
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  • #22

Can I build an SSTO spaceplane if I win the lottery?​


Yes, you can. Go forth and conquer.
 
  • #23
Benjies said:
Yes, you can. Go forth and conquer.
Voted best answer overall.
 
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  • #24
Radian uses a rocket sledge as the first stage if i recall correctly.An SSTO plane would cost around £ 500,000, if you are designing it right! (my day job!)

Most modern supersonic fighter jets could cross the Karman Line if they carried a fairly large SRB and achieve a parabolic orbit of some kind. You would need to strip down the airframe etc to reduce weight ... and use a very long runway! ... and some RATO boosters might help too!!

The ALTO1 (my day job) is not a space plane as such but it could (in theory) fly over the ISS if you were mad enough to try! ... * 1 test run SIMULATED!
 
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  • #25
The EDF ALTO1 is designed to shoot down incoming asteroids, small ones. It is MACH 4 capable at very high altitudes and designed to survive MACH 10 dives above the Karman Line.

Its other use is to launch small payloads into LEO, eg CubeSats, or Droids and Supplies for the upcoming ETERNITY Starship Project... Think Skylon mini 2.0
 
  • #26
ETERNITY Starship said:
The EDF ALTO1
Please stop trying to Crowdfund here at PF. It appears that the project has been unsuccessful so far. You are welcome to participate here as a regular user, but please stop with the spamming. Thank you.

1686010886347.png
 
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  • #27
I was simply just answering the OP's question ... not asking for money, support etc! ... or posting a link!

I DELIBERATLEY DID NOT POST A LINK
 
  • #28
ETERNITY Starship said:
I was simply just answering the OP's question ... not asking for money, support etc! ... or posting a link!

I DELIBERATLEY DID NOT POST A LINK
Short leash. Thread is closed.
 
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