# Could a ballistic missile be used to deliver cargo?

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1. Feb 7, 2017

### BoeingJet

Are firing ballistic rockets to the other side of the planet carrying plenty of cargo economical? If so, would it even be plausible. Please contribute.

2. Feb 7, 2017

### NTW

I believe that a system of 'rocket mail' was used in Austria or in Switzerland, in the 1920s or so, to send letters to villages that were difficult to reach by land. And, in 1810, Heinrich von Kleist proposed (I suspect that tongue in cheek...) a 'Bombenpost' service, with hollow shells and suitable howitzers...

http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/buch/kritiken-und-berichterstattungen-5886/1

3. Feb 7, 2017

This would be extraordinarily expensive, though certainly rapid. Consider that a Minuteman missile reportedly has a unit cost of $26,000,000 adjusted for inflation. The exact payload of those missiles is obviously classified, though it is likely only in the low hundreds of kilograms. So you are talking roughly$100,000/kg to send parcels via ballistic missile. I can ship the same thing via UPS from here in the States to India, on the other side of the globe, for about $86.76/kg and it will be there in about 4 days if I need it to be fast. I mean, just how fast of a shipment do you really need? 4. Feb 7, 2017 ### phyzguy Also, I don't think they have any capability to decelerate and land, so your shipment would need to be really well packed! 5. Feb 7, 2017 ### boneh3ad Oh, they most certainly do not. In fact, they are designed assuming they will literally be vaporized before touching the ground. If there was a misfire and it did manage to hit the ground, it would be advantageous for them to retain as much of their ballistic velocity as possible so as to thoroughly break apart the pieces and make them useless from an intelligence perspective. 6. Feb 7, 2017 ### russ_watters ### Staff: Mentor Given that we send material into orbit now for about$10,000 a pound, I would think we could do better for ballistic missiles ($5,000?$1,000?). We're basically talking Mercury/Redstone type technology.

You would also need to combine this with drone-based delivery, since I'm sure as heck not going to spend \$1,000 / kg and still have to track and retrieve my package myself as it floats down under a parachute!

...then someone else will need to retrieve and discard the delivery vehicle/capsule. All and all, except perhaps for an extraordinary humanitarian need, not very practical.

7. Feb 7, 2017

Yeah, I wonder what percentage of the price of an ICBM you could save by loosening up requirements on the circular error probability.

8. Feb 10, 2017

### Baluncore

The ballistic missile has always been the ultimate delivery system where minimum transit time and maximum speed on arrival were important, but only when expense was not an issue.

To be economic, a ballistic delivery system would need to recover the launch energy on arrival, call it regenerative braking. The descent speed would need to be minimised to reduce drag losses while the energy was somehow banked. Unfortunately that would increase transit time.

None.

In WW2 the German V2 could not pick an individual target with it's 500 kg conventional warhead. Many were targeted at a city, in the hope that one would have an effect by hitting something important. After WW2, the atomic bomb removed any need for precision navigation over the short 500 km range to a city. The intercontinental ballistic missile with multiple hydrogen bomb warheads solved the problem for regions.

But things have changed. GPS style navigation means a ballistic missile no longer needs to carry a nuclear weapon to ensure destruction of a specific target.

9. Feb 11, 2017

### BoeingJet

I mean like using a ballistic, reusable rocket to get a really heavy cargo into a ballistic trajectory before reentering the atmosphere and slowing it down by a parachute.

Furthermore, could we carry people like that too? Like a ballistic humans carrier.

10. Feb 11, 2017

### BoeingJet

Also, would it be possible for your cargo to drift down on a parachute onto a delivery centre in your town? It would be nice. (Very romantic for a wedding too, you know.)

11. Feb 11, 2017

### rootone

It is remotely feasible, in that the idea doesn't violate laws of physics.
In practical terms it's only feasible for someone who has a few hunded millions to spare on a fast delivery system that is not guaranteed to be reliable.

12. Feb 12, 2017

### Baluncore

Moving a few people very quickly is not rational. The people moved would have to be extremely valuable individuals to justify the expense. The high risks involved would keep valuable people away.

Concorde flights ended for exactly that reason. The Tupolev Tu-144 was likewise unsuccessful.
If SST airplanes are not commercially viable, then ballistic missiles certainly cannot be viable.

13. Feb 16, 2017

### BoeingJet

No, I mean like 700+ passengers moving across the planet at REALLY high speeds. Would that make the cost lower? Would that make it more popular and more economically viable?

Never mind about global warming issues caused by that system.

14. Feb 16, 2017

### Baluncore

No.
But intelligent people are deeply concerned with global warming issues.

Just imagine the insurance costs and the terrorism possibilities.

15. Feb 16, 2017

### Staff: Mentor

The answer to both questions has to be yes, but more viable than what? Slightly more viable than extraordinarily non-viable is still extremely non-viable.

You just aren't going to get 500 people at a time to want to spend a million dollars each and risk a 1% chance of death in order to save 8 hours of travel time.

16. Feb 16, 2017

### BoeingJet

How about like delivering humanitarian cargos to disaster-striken area.

17. Feb 16, 2017

### rootone

That may be verging on feasible, but still the cost of the delivery system would be many times the value of the cargo delivered.

18. Feb 16, 2017

Well, maybe not if that disaster-stricken area just really needed a 200 kg delivery of diamonds.

19. Feb 17, 2017

### jackwhirl

I thought this sounded familiar.

20. Feb 19, 2017

### BoeingJet

No, like earth to earth, not earth to mars and wasting like 1 million tons of fuel.