Planners for hypersonic SpaceLiner craft propose a 50 year timeline

Jan 28, 2013 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: DLR-SART

(Phys.org)—Martin Sippel, project coordinator for the SpaceLiner project has announced that the German Aerospace Center believes it can plan, build and launch a suborbital craft capable of flying from Europe to Australia in just 90 minutes, in as few as 50 years.

The SpaceLiner project has been around since 2005, and is supported by the . The goal is to build a vehicle similar to the space shuttle flown previously by the United States – the main differences would be that the vehicles' purpose would be to transport people from point to point across the globe and that it would not actually ever reach space. It would also be launched using and hydrogen based propellants – only and would be left behind in the atmosphere, a much cleaner approach than that used by other rockets.

As with the space shuttle, a SpaceLiner vehicle would launch vertically, attached to a . Passengers (up to 50) would be taken to an altitude of 47 to 50 miles, at which point the booster would fall away. From that point on, the craft would glide down to Earth on a trajectory that would have it arrive at its pre-designated destination. As the craft glides, it would reach speeds of up to 15,000 mph, which would account for the short travel time. But such plans also pose a problem for engineers as the vehicle would experience the same heat buildup as space reentry vehicles. For that reason, the design of the craft itself is still a work in progress. Engineers are analyzing the results of FAST20XX, a joint European project that has been studying the types of high speed craft that might carry people in the not so distant future. They will also no doubt be consulting with on lessons learned from the .

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The SpaceLiner project carries with it many unknowns – foremost among them perhaps, is whether enough people will be willing to pay the expected several hundred thousand dollar cost of a single ride. Other issues such as sonic booms and the safety of not just those aboard, but those on the ground that lie in its path will need to be addressed as well. Engineers and managers working on the project are well aware of the difficult issues of course, but by publicly announcing their goal, they have shown that they are confident that they will succeed.

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Qshadow
4.7 / 5 (13) Jan 28, 2013
"in as few as 50 years."
Is this a joke?
Maggnus
4.3 / 5 (6) Jan 28, 2013
Is this a joke?

Lol more like extreme optimism :)
Grallen
5 / 5 (5) Jan 28, 2013
It's probably more like 50 years if technology were to stand still.

Though the timeline might be funding related.
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (4) Jan 28, 2013
It sounds like it could also be used as a space shuttle since it is only 3000 MPH shy of full orbital velocity, using extra boosters on top of the main flyer. When you are already 50 miles high, most of the atmospheric heat would be over so the actual drag would be a lot less than lower altitudes. If they get it going as a space shuttle at a half million per person, that would be a huge deal in manned space flight.

Using their numbers, if each person paid say 500,000 dollars times 50 people, they are talking about each launch costing in the vicinity of 25 mil. That would clock in at about 5% of the cost of a single space shuttle launch, each one of which was around 500 million bucks.
Ophelia
4 / 5 (4) Jan 28, 2013
The tech for doing this obviously exists now. It might take a decade from start to finish to get one in the air, but certainly not 50 years.

Other articles published on this have quoted "ticket prices" in the $US 250,000 range for a flight - and this won't even get you your astronaut wings since it doesn't hit 62 miles. I think this is the killer.
Sonhouse
5 / 5 (2) Jan 28, 2013
The tech for doing this obviously exists now. It might take a decade from start to finish to get one in the air, but certainly not 50 years.

Other articles published on this have quoted "ticket prices" in the $US 250,000 range for a flight - and this won't even get you your astronaut wings since it doesn't hit 62 miles. I think this is the killer.


With a 50 year lead time, that number might go up to 100 or more miles so they could get their space wings but in 50 years other technology may supercede the old rocket thing, like space elevators for instance, which would mean nothing for point to point on the Earth, London to Sydney and so forth but it would make a big difference for space travel. So it sounds like both kinds of technology would be complimentary not competitive.
alq131
5 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2013
Haven't there been any lessons learned from the shuttle? vertical take off of a craft side mounted on the boosters/engines isn't very safe. It would be much more believable to use the Stratolauncher, with a booster/passenger section. Maybe you only get 20 passengers, but it's much more believable, reliable, and likely less expensive. Why would anyone propose 50 years to recreate a technology (shuttle/booster) that most other space launchers are moving away from, and actually implementing their new launch vehicles now!?
travisr
5 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2013
So the economic sense in this is what? Its a vertical aircraft, so the load time would be outrageous. The danger much greater. The de-planing time much longer. The turn around time to fly again would probably atleast be a day. Plus you have to build belly tanks constantly. There are better ways to get around, and this isn't one...
HighSpizzle
5 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2013
How is launching TWO large vehicles to carry 50 people ever going to be cost effective? And in 50 years I suspect jet propulsion technology will be ancient (hopefully)
Telekinetic
2.5 / 5 (8) Jan 28, 2013
Shee-it, in 50 years, kids'll be playin' with TeleportationStation 3.
Shootist
2.3 / 5 (6) Jan 28, 2013
Not if it needs a fuel tank the size of the one in the "artist's impression".
ClevorTrever
4.8 / 5 (6) Jan 28, 2013
So by the time this service is up and running they will be using 80 year old technology, launching from a site that will take as long to get to as it would have taken to get to the intended destination anyway.

Investor fraud.
javjav
5 / 5 (2) Jan 28, 2013
The problem is not the spaceship technology, it is the energy cost. This ship is reusable and it only needs water, but this water has to be split. If they find a cheap way to split water into Hydrogen and Oxygen then these kind of designs could become very common and profitable. But not otherwise.
gwrede
2.6 / 5 (5) Jan 28, 2013
I wonder for how long the novelty value can justify a $250,000 price tag. Especially when most of the rich people would consider this a risky and stupid way to spend money. A couple of months of flights with celebrities is a long way from break-even.

And what if the landing has to be aborted? Doesn't really look like there's a second chance. Real airplanes abort landings for several reasons, every day.

(Space shuttles could delay down-flights for days due to bad weather, but such delays defeat the purpose of fast intercontinental passenger travel.)

Maybe these guys should read up on the Concorde.
alq131
5 / 5 (2) Jan 28, 2013
Mostly, this is an example of a proposal seeking to get government funding from oblivious officials.

Private companies are testing essentially THIS technology today. A pretty "artist conception" and a long timeline is a great "project" for government to waste money on.

See Stratolauncher:
http://www.stratolaunch.com/

Combine with a SpaceX booster:
http://www.spacex...con9.php

Then slap on a Lifting body reusable/reentry craft:
http://www.sncspa...tion.php

And you've got a much better system than these guys are talking about...today, or almost today, but not 50 years. I would expect that even in less than 50 years, we would hope to have a SCRAMJet technology as an engine that could be added to this to be even more efficient. It just amazes me that governments are probably spending money already on this "50 year plan"
Jeffhans1
1.8 / 5 (5) Jan 28, 2013
That or use a maglev rail system with a tunnel bored into the alps. 50 years is far too long to wait for transportation of this type.
Jo01
2.7 / 5 (7) Jan 28, 2013
This must be a joke.
The only positive thing that came from the space shuttle project was a 200 billion dollar lesson what not to do.
(We could have been to Mars twenty times for that money.)
We don't need another Buran project to show that 'we' could do even worse than the space shuttle.
We need a new kind of thinking like this revolution: http://www.reacti...bre.html or XCOR (because they also have superior rocket technology).

J.
javjav
not rated yet Jan 28, 2013
Mostly, this is an example of a proposal seeking to get government funding from oblivious officials.

See Stratolauncher:
http://www.stratolaunch.com/

Combine with a SpaceX booster:
http://www.spacex...con9.php

Not anymore. This is from their website:

"December, 2012 - Stratolaunch and SpaceX have amicably agreed to end our contractual relationship because the current launch vehicle design has departed significantly from the Falcon derivative vehicle envisioned by SpaceX and does not fit well with their long-term strategic business model."

http://www.stratolaunch.com/news.html
socean
5 / 5 (3) Jan 28, 2013
50 years! Scoff! If you can see past 10 years you're doing great. Go for 50 and you don't have a clue, its all just sci-fi. I don't care who you are or what its about.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (2) Jan 29, 2013
Looking back through history, how many examples are there of concerted R&D efforts extending over 50 years?
How do they believe they can sustain such a lengthy effort? Across political regime changes? Multi-generational, for heaven's sake! And, as has been pointed out, they must take in to account technological advances which are guaranteed to render parts of the design obsolete. Probably quicker than you think - the rate of technological advancement is accelerating.
ScottyB
1 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2013
Why are they wasting time rebuilding a shuttle type craft!

They shoudl use the reaction rocket SABER engines
http://www.reacti...s.co.uk/
Bookbinder
5 / 5 (1) Jan 29, 2013
HaHaHaHaHa.
Another shuttle. Another glued together styrofoam, Rube Goldberg contraption, chemical propulsion. Heat tiles. Already obsolete. Object of the game is to get investors and live off the "R&D" effort for their entire careers. Probably pushing investments to dentists.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (3) Jan 30, 2013
I agree with everything you guys have already said, but I have ANOTHER reason this idea sucks:

1) You need a very special place to land wherever you would like to go. You can't land something like this at any commercial airport, and no millitary base is going to allow commercial passenger traffic.

2) How do you get it back to the launch site? If you piggy-back it on a 747 like the space shuttle did, then you will need to plan for refueling stops along the way. If you plan to launch it back to Europe, then you need to build a lanuch facility at each end of your route.

I think something like this would be more realistic if they scale it down to something like 6 passengers. The x37 design should be capable of this with very little modification, and it is even remotely piloted, which saves on weight and internal space. Not sure if you could sell passenger seats on a drone, but it's a good design decision.

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