Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

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SilverInSpace
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Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by SilverInSpace » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:17 am

Greetings, My name is SilverInSpace. I have been a long time reader, but this is my first post. Hopefully, someone can provide an answer to my question.

To my current knowledge, space shuttles are incapable of atmospheric flight. Simply acting as gliders upon entering the Earth's atmosphere. My question is as follows: What would it take to create a craft capable of atmospheric exit/entry and flight?

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AthrunX23s
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by AthrunX23s » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:44 am

Actually that has been done before, shown here. So all you need is to strap jet engines to it and viola, you have an trans-atmospheric vehicle!

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:50 pm

The problem with doing a literal aerospace craft capable of operating both in atmosphere and in space is that the two modes of travel are completely different and frequently at odds with each other. It's sort of like trying to design an airplane that is also a submarine. You can theoretically pull it off, but you're probably going to end up with a sub-par airplane that's also a terrible submarine, or a sub-par submarine that's also a terrible airplane.

With the exception of the surface-to-orbit ferry (such as the space shuttle), which is most efficient rocketing up and gliding down, you're generally better off designing, building, and deploying aircraft and spacecraft as separate machines.

To answer your question a little more thoroughly, though, to have a functioning combine air/space craft, you'd need a complete aircraft inside a complete spacecraft. The most obvious part of this is that you'd need two completely different propulsion systems (a jet or prop engine for air, and a rocket engine for space) -- you can use a rocket engine to fly in atmosphere, but it's really really hard to do efficiently, so if you plan to do more than just rocket straight up into space you're probably better off with a dedicated air-breathing propulsion system.

You'd also need life support, pressurized cockpits, etc etc, but that's not to hard to pull off -- most jet aircraft are already sealed and pressurized anyway. Less obvious is the extras that a spacecraft needs -- radiation shielding for the crew, and debris shields (basically armor against micrometeorites and orbital debris, which can be an effective-but-heavy solid layer or a lighter-but-unsuitable-for-atmosphere Whipple shield) for the ship. Your space ship also needs radiators to shed excess heat, but those can probably be built into the wings without too much fuss.

The details of the thing will depend on what you want to use it for. A military craft will necessarily look much different than a civilian one. A cargo ship will look different than a passenger vessel, and an express courier will look different than a bulk freighter. In short, tell us what you want an air/space craft to do, and we'll tell you what it looks like.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Newtype87 » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:22 pm

While I really cannot properly help answer this question, it's worth noting that Gundam only shows us a small handful of this type of ship. Ships like White Base, Argama, Archangel, and Ptolemy II are incredibly rare in-setting, and usually reserved for special cases, thus hinting the price and complexity necessary to build these things. It'd easier just to build the giant airplane and the space battleship rather than make one that can fulfill both roles. And most of these ships are battle carriers or whatever they're called, which probably doesn't help their budget any.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Wingnut » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:07 am

What about the Zanzabar class of ships? It used only rocket engines to my knowledge and the only real restriction it had in the atmosphere compared to say a Gaw was range.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Newtype87 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:43 am

Wingnut wrote:What about the Zanzabar class of ships? It used only rocket engines to my knowledge and the only real restriction it had in the atmosphere compared to say a Gaw was range.
Oh, I forgot about that. Well, the Zanzibar compared to most space ships is extremely streamlined, and it has those stubby little wings, so it might get some extra lift. But if it's all done by rockets, I can't imagine that it can hover or anything like that for very long at all. How many times do we see a Zanzibar in atmosphere and under power, actually? I know we see a Zanzibar in 08th MS Team.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Mu La Flaga » Tue Jul 13, 2010 7:48 am

To a small bit of merrit, the Minerva and ArchAngel had powerful engines, but they both need external boosters to help them achive escape velocity.
in ArchAngel's case they also fired the Taunheiser cannons to weaken the gravity for a moment in a straight line.
I don't know if the Minerva had to do that.

Of the 2 ships the Minerva at least had wings of sorts on the front and back to try and help give it some level of lift, the ArchAngel only had one huge wing section underneath the middle of the ship.

But yeah, I suppose the thing is it's tricky making a vehicle that can function well in both environments.
For instance the Blackbird stealth jet actually got pretty high and fast up on it's own, but if you took it up in to space it wouldn't be any use there without air or anything, not to mention no form of steering.

I mean some ship designs were silly and some were good in some ways of how they actually worked.

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by AthrunX23s » Tue Jul 13, 2010 10:23 am

Mu La Flaga wrote:in ArchAngel's case they also fired the Taunheiser cannons to weaken the gravity for a moment in a straight line.
Actually the Archangel fired the Lohengrins to vaporize the air molecules in front of it in order to remove air friction from the equation. Gravity stayed the same.
I don't know if the Minerva had to do that.
It didn't, but in it's case, it used it's enormous, specifically designed booster to escape Earth's gravity whereas in the Archangel's case, it just used the Kusanagi's small, spare boosters. And (I think) those spare boosters are weaker since they're designed to be used in conjunction with a mass driver to launch the ship(i.e. Kusanagi), and since the Archangel is to be incapable of launching via mass driver, they just improvised.

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Newtype87 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:18 am

Mu La Flaga wrote:To a small bit of merrit, the Minerva and ArchAngel had powerful engines, but they both need external boosters to help them achive escape velocity.
in ArchAngel's case they also fired the Taunheiser cannons to weaken the gravity for a moment in a straight line.
I don't know if the Minerva had to do that.

Of the 2 ships the Minerva at least had wings of sorts on the front and back to try and help give it some level of lift, the ArchAngel only had one huge wing section underneath the middle of the ship.

But yeah, I suppose the thing is it's tricky making a vehicle that can function well in both environments.
For instance the Blackbird stealth jet actually got pretty high and fast up on it's own, but if you took it up in to space it wouldn't be any use there without air or anything, not to mention no form of steering.

I mean some ship designs were silly and some were good in some ways of how they actually worked.
While I cannot properly speak for a few of the shows, I know that Ptolemy II had to actually go Trans-Am in order to achieve escape velocity, and Archangel and Minerva had to cheat to get back into space, and I think 08th MS Team's Zanzibar had a rocket booster to get back. Presumably, any other multi-environment ships do too.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Phoenix012 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 11:22 am

Alright, there are several minor misconceptions running around this thread, so let me clear things up.

Currently, designing a hybrid air/space vehicle is impossible due to technological limits in aerospace engine design. However, the actual difference between liquid fueled rocket engines (like the space shuttle main engine) from spacecraft and air-breathing jet engines is actually much smaller than people realize. They both use gas turbine technology. The only real difference is that the rocket engine requires onboard oxidizer to sustain the chemical reaction for combustion. Jet engines use air as an oxidizer. While it might be theoretically possible to combine these two engine systems together, the engineering of two separate fuel and oxidizer systems together is a bit of a nightmare and would weigh far too much.

However, with a single technological leap, the oxidizer problem can be removed entirely. I am talking, of course, about nuclear power. With heat from nuclear power, a chemical combustion reaction (and therefore oxidizer) becomes unnecessary. Of course propellant is still required in order to make the air/spacecraft actually move, but a hybrid engine system using nuclear thermal propulsion is vastly simplified. Such a propulsion system could operate in space using hydrogen as a propellant, and then upon entering the atmosphere open intakes and use air instead. This is basically the technology we see being used in both the Gundam and Macross franchises.

Achieving escape velocity with this technology is still another matter though. Like the space shuttle today, most craft will still need assistance in reaching orbit from the ground, but this is also reflected in the Gundam and Macross franchises.

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Wingnut » Tue Jul 13, 2010 12:54 pm

Newtype87 wrote:
Wingnut wrote:What about the Zanzabar class of ships? It used only rocket engines to my knowledge and the only real restriction it had in the atmosphere compared to say a Gaw was range.
Oh, I forgot about that. Well, the Zanzibar compared to most space ships is extremely streamlined, and it has those stubby little wings, so it might get some extra lift. But if it's all done by rockets, I can't imagine that it can hover or anything like that for very long at all. How many times do we see a Zanzibar in atmosphere and under power, actually? I know we see a Zanzibar in 08th MS Team.
Ramba Ral's Zanzabar most notably. For a few episodes after he was introduced in fact.
Newtype87 wrote:While I cannot properly speak for a few of the shows, I know that Ptolemy II had to actually go Trans-Am in order to achieve escape velocity
That was also an emergency situation as at the end of S2 we see the ship leaving earth without the use of Trans-Am. Meaning the Ptolemy II has no trouble getting out of the atmosphere under her own power. She just needed to leave in a hurry that one time.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by azrael » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:15 pm

Wingnut wrote:That was also an emergency situation as at the end of S2 we see the ship leaving earth without the use of Trans-Am. Meaning the Ptolemy II has no trouble getting out of the atmosphere under her own power. She just needed to leave in a hurry that one time.
In fact, at the end of the series, Ptolemy II is leaving Earth under normal operation.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by SonicSP » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:19 pm

Does the Kyrios Gust from AD counts as a shuttle? It was mentioned to be able to escape the atmosphere really easily in its profile.

So, in other words..........really really strong boosters?

-----------------------------------------
azrael wrote:
Wingnut wrote:That was also an emergency situation as at the end of S2 we see the ship leaving earth without the use of Trans-Am. Meaning the Ptolemy II has no trouble getting out of the atmosphere under her own power. She just needed to leave in a hurry that one time.
In fact, at the end of the series, Ptolemy II is leaving Earth under normal operation.
I disagree, the last scene showed it with a red glow while it was just a small object far from the screen. Not sure whether it was in the TV Version but the DVD one has it.

http://img682.imageshack.us/img682/5017 ... ransam.jpg

Just checked the versions, the TV version has it too. The one where we saw large normal Ptolemaios II right after a shot of Set and crew being in it; was before the scene where Marina is looking at it as showed in the provided link, where the Ptolemaios is smaller and far away from her and more importantly glowing red while emitting green particles.

But the red glow is unmistakable, it used Trans-Am. Maybe not at the start of the take off like in the sea battle but at some higher altitude after it took off.
Last edited by SonicSP on Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by azrael » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:35 pm

SonicSP wrote: I disagree, the last scene showed it with a red glow while it was just a small object far from the screen. Not sure whether it was in the TV Version but the DVD one has it.

Just checked the versions, the TV version has it too. The one where we saw large Ptolemaios II right after Set and crew ere in it was before the scene where Marina is looking at it, where the Ptolemaios is smaller and far away from her.

But the red glow is unmistakable, it used Trans-Am.
So this is Trans-AM too?
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Newtype87 » Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:47 pm

azrael wrote:
SonicSP wrote: I disagree, the last scene showed it with a red glow while it was just a small object far from the screen. Not sure whether it was in the TV Version but the DVD one has it.

Just checked the versions, the TV version has it too. The one where we saw large Ptolemaios II right after Set and crew ere in it was before the scene where Marina is looking at it, where the Ptolemaios is smaller and far away from her.

But the red glow is unmistakable, it used Trans-Am.
So this is Trans-AM too?
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Actually, no, that shot of the Ptolemy II looks a whole lot like Trans-Am. It's radiating red light like Trans-Am's high particle output, whereas the two images you showed were just glowing from sunlight.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Ptolemy II needs Trans-Am to leave the atmosphere: it's a really big ship, and a lot of their tech incorporates Trans-Am now so they'd find a way to let the ship use it.
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Mu La Flaga » Wed Jul 14, 2010 3:57 am

AthrunX23s wrote:
Mu La Flaga wrote:in ArchAngel's case they also fired the Taunheiser cannons to weaken the gravity for a moment in a straight line.
Actually the Archangel fired the Lohengrins to vaporize the air molecules in front of it in order to remove air friction from the equation. Gravity stayed the same.
I don't know if the Minerva had to do that.
It didn't, but in it's case, it used it's enormous, specifically designed booster to escape Earth's gravity whereas in the Archangel's case, it just used the Kusanagi's small, spare boosters. And (I think) those spare boosters are weaker since they're designed to be used in conjunction with a mass driver to launch the ship(i.e. Kusanagi), and since the Archangel is to be incapable of launching via mass driver, they just improvised.
Ah opps I got the Taunheiser and Lohengrin muddled up for a moment between the two ships.

And in all fairness to your arguement do you really consider it cheating to use an extra stage of boosters to achive the ammount of thrust needed to escape the atmosphere.
Current rockets and space shuttles pretty much use those as a booster or in stages.

Besides should keep in mind these said ships have to carry a few 18 meter or so odd tall humanoid mechs that way a good few tons or so per mech, so it might be kind of expected that not all ships can do it under their own thrust power alone.
As opposed to simple ships that are made to carry people and basic equipment up in to space.

That and the Kusanagi has a good idea to be launched in sections but it needs a mass driver to launch the sections in to base, so it takes a little effort and equipment to do that.
Last edited by Mu La Flaga on Thu Jul 15, 2010 8:47 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by radioactive28 » Wed Jul 14, 2010 10:41 pm

Phoenix012 wrote:Alright, there are several minor misconceptions running around this thread, so let me clear things up.

Currently, designing a hybrid air/space vehicle is impossible due to technological limits in aerospace engine design. However, the actual difference between liquid fueled rocket engines (like the space shuttle main engine) from spacecraft and air-breathing jet engines is actually much smaller than people realize. They both use gas turbine technology. The only real difference is that the rocket engine requires onboard oxidizer to sustain the chemical reaction for combustion. Jet engines use air as an oxidizer. While it might be theoretically possible to combine these two engine systems together, the engineering of two separate fuel and oxidizer systems together is a bit of a nightmare and would weigh far too much.
Not sure where you got this from, or if I'm the one missing something, but I'm pretty sure rocket engines are not gas turbine engines. They have as few moving parts as possible, gimbals aside, and simply burn fuel as it is spewed out.

Jet compressors and turbines already have issues handling the air flow around Mach 1 because of shocks, and escape velocity from Earth is 11km/s, or about Mach 30. Current jet turbine temperature handling capability is capped at about 4000C, and even then, only for very few stages of the actual turbine. I imagine putting the two together for rocket engine-type travel will cause the fan blades to disintegrate. (I'm actually surprised that something travelling at 11km/s doesn't disintegrate entirely in the first place.)

As mentioned above, by Kirby, the only real multi-purpose engine is the rocket engine, but using it for flights on Earth is just plain inefficient.

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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by SchizophrenicMC » Sat Jul 17, 2010 2:41 am

You could do what Variable Fighters did in Macross and use "Thermonuclear Reaction Turbines." Back on MacrossWorld, we had a big discussion about those, once, and there were a lot of valid theories raised as to how they work. All that's really KNOWN about them is that they use some form of propellant for spaceflight, which is superheated by reactors in the engines, making them less efficient in space. (Versus "air ram" mode, which draws air in, superheating it as it passes the reactor, and the expansion does the same thing as any gas turbine)

Alternatively, and I hate saying this, the Archangel (Why do people bumpcase that?), based on dialogue, used nuclear thrust. Ion thrusters, essentially, which operate by accelerating the propellant, without an oxidizer, out of the thruster exhausts. Newton's Laws take place, action undergoes reaction, and the ship moves forward. Problem is, I wouldn't expect it to have both efficiency and speed. (Though, if it takes so many days to get from Africa to Alaska, I guess I'd have to pick efficiency)

And the point about using its positron blaster cannons is somewhat irrelevant. That's not a standard procedure. "Positronic Interference" caused the air molecules to break apart, reducing friction, for the emergency takeoff, because the Earth Alliance was coming to get them. Archangel appears capable of using slower methods under her own power. (As in, any method that uses less than 1:1 T-W ratio. Like a slow climb)
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by Brave Fencer Kirby » Sat Jul 17, 2010 1:26 pm

SchizophrenicMC wrote:Alternatively, and I hate saying this, the Archangel (Why do people bumpcase that?), based on dialogue, used nuclear thrust. Ion thrusters, essentially, which operate by accelerating the propellant, without an oxidizer, out of the thruster exhausts.
The Archangel supposedly uses an Inertial Confinement Fusion drive. Basically, you take a pellet of fuel suitable for undergoing nuclear fusion (like deuterium and tritium or helium3 and deuterium), shoot a bunch of lasers at it simultaneously, and it heats up enough to undergo fusion, which heats it up a lot more, which makes more of it undergo fusion, etc. I'm not sure if the Archangel's drive uses this energy to heat propellant for its thrusters, or if it simply uses the particles resulting from the reaction as propellant.

Ion thrusters that you mention are something else entirely. They use a variety of methods to create, energize, and direct ions out the back of the thruster. The ions themselves are the propellant. Ion thrusters have a very high specific impulse, but very low thrust. Think of it as the rocket equivalent of having an engine with great mileage, but next to no horsepower. This makes them great for unmanned deep space missions, but completely unsuitable for use in a combat vehicle.
SchizophrenicMC wrote:Archangel appears capable of using slower methods under her own power. (As in, any method that uses less than 1:1 T-W ratio. Like a slow climb)
I think you mean greater than 1:1 thrust-to-weight ratio. Something with a ratio lower than one wouldn't be able to gain altitude at all. In any case, I'm pretty sure that the Archangel has something like the White Base's Minovksy craft system -- that is, something that lets it fly around like a hovercraft somehow -- because I have serious doubts that its main IC fusion drive could allow it to float about like we see it doing (not least of all because it's got no thruster exhaust pointing at the ground).
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Re: Spacecraft capable of atmospheric flight

Post by AnimeMun » Sat Jul 17, 2010 9:17 pm

Newtype87 wrote:
azrael wrote:
SonicSP wrote: I disagree, the last scene showed it with a red glow while it was just a small object far from the screen. Not sure whether it was in the TV Version but the DVD one has it.

Just checked the versions, the TV version has it too. The one where we saw large Ptolemaios II right after Set and crew ere in it was before the scene where Marina is looking at it, where the Ptolemaios is smaller and far away from her.

But the red glow is unmistakable, it used Trans-Am.
So this is Trans-AM too?
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http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3652/335 ... 343bc6.jpg

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Actually, no, that shot of the Ptolemy II looks a whole lot like Trans-Am. It's radiating red light like Trans-Am's high particle output, whereas the two images you showed were just glowing from sunlight.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Ptolemy II needs Trans-Am to leave the atmosphere: it's a really big ship, and a lot of their tech incorporates Trans-Am now so they'd find a way to let the ship use it.

Umm....last time I checked anything that leaves or enters the atmosphere in a normal situation (orbital elevator not counting) glows red due to the friction of going through the different layers of atmosphere. While I'm sure Trans-Am helps, particularly in need of a hurry. I doubt its seriously needed with the proper shielding. Something I'm sure a ship of the Ptolemy II's class has.
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