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Launching an object into OUTER space

  1. Dec 30, 2012 #1
    I've been wondering something.

    My question is, if someone wanted to launch an object into space - how feasible will it be from a physical perspective, what the challenges of this will be and whether it can be done on a reasonable budget.

    Note that when I say into space I mean space, not just the troposphere which can be done with a helium filled balloon. I mean to have it escape the earth's pull such that it can venture towards another celestial body or into a particular direction.

    The object in this case would be extremely small compared to the rockets launched by NASA. Maximum weight for the object to be sent would be about 5kg or less - that will make up the technological equipment, to do the 'monitoring' and transmit back the results.

    As unfeasible as this sounds to me I just wanted to ask because I am hoping that maybe it's not impossible even if someone doesn't have a huge budget like one of these space companies.
     
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  3. Dec 31, 2012 #2

    Drakkith

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    It is not possible unless you have, at minimum, several hundred thousand dollars to buy a hollow tube and the fuel to fill it. Let's not get into complicated things like nozzles, navigation systems, etc.
     
  4. Dec 31, 2012 #3

    phinds

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    But Ralph Kramden launched Alice to the moon for a lot less that that
     
  5. Dec 31, 2012 #4

    Drakkith

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    I don't that was ever verified!
     
  6. Dec 31, 2012 #5

    russ_watters

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    There's no way it could be done for "several hundred thousand dollars". Several hundred million maybe.

    We have an archetype to follow: Elon Musk. He spent $300 million to develop the Falcon 9 and I don't think it meets the OP's requirement of escaping Earth.
     
  7. Dec 31, 2012 #6
    The technological aspect wouldn't be a problem. My engineering background is good enough (as good as a college student can have). I can comfortably build robotics capable of encompassing a navigation system, transmitting data, detecting temperature or distance from objects, detaching parts as necessary and a lot more which is why I emphasized the 'physical' side of this in the first post.

    My understanding of this on the physics side however is that which can be gained from watching documentaries so quite limited. I'm willing to learn but it's better to know about the feasibility before putting hours of research into understanding the relevant equations to then find out it's something that's impossible without a huge budget.

    So let me rephrase my question, if a helium balloon can go up to 20KM above sea level (the troposphere), why can't the rocket be lifted to this height by the balloon and then launched from there in turn saving a large amount of petrol. After the rocket is launched from this height - it has to travel the lesser 80KM until it is in what is considered outer space. Can someone explain why this is so difficult that it requires that much money to do.

    Perhaps I'm thinking of it wrong but my only point of reference is a car travelling 80KM which definitely doesn't require that much fuel.
     
  8. Dec 31, 2012 #7

    Ryan_m_b

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    A few quick points: reaching 100km altitude and getting into orbit (I.e staying in space) are two different things. Also a car isn't propelling itself through the air to reach escape velocity but is instead rolling on land.
     
  9. Dec 31, 2012 #8
    Hmm. Just looked into this.

    Falcon 9's aim is to deliver payloads to the ISS which is 370KM above sea-level. It is in orbit around Earth, much higher than the point where outer space is said to begin at 100km. It is also designed to be able to send humans to mars later in the coming decades so it seems like this is the type of rocket I need a mini version of. To put it into perspective the Falcon 9 is built to support a payload of 13,150 kilograms as compared to the tiny 5kg (possibly slightly more) I'm aiming to send.
     
  10. Dec 31, 2012 #9
    Planes then.
     
  11. Dec 31, 2012 #10

    Bandersnatch

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    Take a look at Tsiolkovsky's rocket equation and plug in all the numbers to get a feel for the lower limit of what you might need in terms of propellant mass and exhaust velocity.
     
  12. Dec 31, 2012 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    By writing this, you have proved that your engineering background isn't good enough, and furthermore, you don't even understand the challenges involved.

    The first - and I believe still only - amateur rocket launch into outer space was in 2004, and went 116km above the ground - 100 km is considered the boundary of space. It was 20 feet tall, weighed 700 pounds, and took a team of about 30 - many of whom had day jobs in aerospace - to build it.
     
  13. Dec 31, 2012 #12

    Astronuc

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    Two things to consider are altitude and velocity. Getting something to orbit at about the altitude of ISS requires accelerating to ~17,080 mph or 27 500 km/h. No small feat.

    Not only does one need the launch vehicle, but one needs the infrastructure to support the launch.
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2012
  14. Dec 31, 2012 #13
    Is that a revelation to you?

    I mentioned in my original post that I don't understand the challenges involved hence asking. It's a pretty simple concept actually, when you don't understand something you ask. The other side of it is when you don't know the answer, don't try to ridicule the asker.
     
  15. Dec 31, 2012 #14
    Woah I didn't know this. The fastest travelling plane can only travel at half that speed. So to make a rocket pointing straight up - that would require a huge amount of fuel.

    This is a good article I've found that I'm currently reading...
    http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition30/tryanny.html

    The rocket propellant also needs to comprise a huge percentage of the actual rocket itself. I think the size of the rocket will increase greatly when factors such as the fuel are added. That 5kg will increase exponentially.
     
  16. Dec 31, 2012 #15

    Ryan_m_b

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    Planes and rockets are very different, which is why we don't fly to space. Planes take in air, mix in fuel and blast the result out the back for propulsion. The atmosphere is too thin to do this at higher altitudes necessitating much more fuel for the rocket.
     
  17. Dec 31, 2012 #16

    phinds

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    NOW you are beginning to understand the challenges. You still have not begun to address the infrastructure and the cost.
     
  18. Dec 31, 2012 #17

    Ryan_m_b

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    You might be interested in this article written for laymen about what it would take to launch to the border of space using amateur model rockets. The numbers aren't good
    http://what-if.xkcd.com/24/
     
  19. Dec 31, 2012 #18
    That number definitely doesn't offer confidence. lol
     
  20. Dec 31, 2012 #19

    Drakkith

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    Nope. As I said in post 2, just to buy a hollow tube and fill it with enough fuel would be at least several hundred thousand dollars. And that probably is waaaay underestimating it, and it wouldn't be that simple anyways. Things like engines, electronics, fuel pumps, fuel tanks for separate fuel, launching infrastructure, and a thousand other things would cost several peoples arms and legs. Maybe Phinds will let you use his.
     
  21. Dec 31, 2012 #20

    Astronuc

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    Yes. The solid rocket boosters (SRBs) on the space shuttle are attached to the external tank (ET), and their sole mission is to lift the tank (with liquid hydrogen/oxygen) and themselves along with the space shuttle.

    A rocket must lift its payload, the payload support structure, as well as the rocket body and propellants.

    The propulsion system needs propellant and the energy to heat the propellant. Assuming one has a lot of thrust, it takes a several (~7.5) minutes to get to orbit, so one needs enough propellant to last a several minutes. Liquid propellants (LH/LOX) require turbo-pumps, a power head and combustion chamber. Then there is the cryogenic storage system on the ground and on the launch vehicle. The launch vehicle require guidance and control systems. One should look at scaling Titan or Delta rockets.

    It's not a project for one person.
     
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