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Partial vs full reusability

26 Mar 2015, 22:22 UTC
Partial vs full reusability
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This is a topic suggested by Doug Plata. What impact will partial reusability have on efforts to settle and exploit space?Reusable Booster stages.SpaceX is working on a reusable booster stage. This has potentially enormous savings.Why is reusing a booster such a big deal? Some might think getting above the atmosphere is a minor challenge compared to achieving orbital velocity. Lets take a look at hows and whys of vertical ascent. The flight path angle is the angle between horizontal and the velocity vector.If earth were an airless world, horizontal launches would be optimal. In other words the flight path angle would be zero.But earth has an atmosphere. To avoid a long trip through the atmosphere a flight angle closer to vertical is called for.Taking off from the earth at 8 km/s, a nearly vertical flight path angle vs horizontal take off.Low earth orbit velocity is about 8 km/s. If a spacecraft achieved this velocity at earth's surface with a zero flight path angle, nearly a quarter of it's orbit (about 10,000 kilometers) would be through earth's atmosphere.Most meteorites burn up in the mesosphere about 70 km up. Air density at this altitude is less than a thousandth of sea level. Orbital velocity at sea level would subject the ...

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