Suborbital Balloot

Watched a bit of the two suborbital flights, not that much though, certainly not with the interest I would have had roughly a decade and a half ago. I had thought back then that the technical route to routine space travel would be through incremental advancements from suborbital to orbital to cislunar to other planets and asteroids. Looks like I was wrong again.

One thing that stood out to me was the people trying to play in microgravity with limited room in which to do it. Much more limited in volume and more clutter than on the ZeroGee flights. Looked to me like time was limited enough that there was just time to glance out the windows and play half a round of ZeeGee catch.

A balloot in the spirit of the inflatable space structures might help here if some problems of fast deployment, rapid access, and safety could be addressed. A 5-10 meter diameter inflatable without seats and other clutter would give considerably more play room than either SS2 or NS. Fast deployment might be a bit of a challenge as there wouldn’t be time for a leisurely five minute deployment and check out.

I don’t see how the idea could be adapted to SS2, but it does seem that a VTVL ship could have a fast clamshell hatch in the nose that could allow people in a fairly tight cabin access to a large play area within seconds of reaching vacuum and engine cut off. So a ship that would have had six people might fly with a dozen, each of which would have a lot more room to play and experiment.

With a large balloot starting deceleration at much higher altitude, it seems possible that a ship could fly much higher without subjecting the participants to excessive gee loads. Every extra Mach number gives on the order of another minute of play time in microgravity. On the way back, the participants get back to their seats while the hatch closes. The balloot remains deployed until landing as a drag device incidentally reducing terminal velocity considerably, possibly enough to make a failure of engine relight survivable, if painful.

This seems to me an idea that, even if feasible, is very late to the party. It looks like orbital tourism is likely to become fully operational in the same timeframe as the two suborbital contenders. The contrast may well cut into the desirability of the short pop ups. One interesting factoid though is that the people that were insisting that orbital was 64 times as hard as suborbital have to be wondering what the two companies could have accomplished with 64 times the investment.

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johnhare

johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
johnhare

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johnhare

About johnhare

I do construction for a living and aerospace as an occasional hobby. I am an inventor and a bit of an entrepreneur. I've been self employed since the 1980s and working in concrete since the 1970s. When I grow up, I want to work with rockets and spacecraft. I did a stupid rocket trick a few decades back and decided not to try another hot fire without adult supervision. Haven't located much of that as we are all big kids when working with our passions.
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8 Responses to Suborbital Balloot

  1. Jim Davis says:

    “Fast deployment might be a bit of a challenge as there wouldn’t be time for a leisurely five minute deployment and check out.”

    I think this would be the show stopper. Too much has to happen in too short a time.

  2. Spike says:

    Suborbital is an important step towards orbital /as long as you take the next step/. STS Enterprise wasn’t orbit capable at all, it didn’t even have engines let alone a heat shield, but it filled a critical role in Space Shuttle development. Starhopper and the Starship prototypes built so far have all been suborbital, but the upcoming orbital test wouldn’t be happening without them.

    For both SS1/2 and New Shepard suborbital was their primary goal from the beginning. The fatal mistake was stopping there and trying to perfect it instead of pursuing orbital capability as the next overriding objective.

    They both fill their chosen roles well but design decisions made in the pursuit of suborbital flight sacrificed orbital capability and left them with no path forward. Fixing that largely requires starting over, wasting most of the work already done.

    ———-

    By “balloot” I assume you mean balloon.

    The bigger the play volume the longer it takes to move to and from the passenger seats, and the larger the game the longer it takes to play to satisfaction. As you said, time is the biggest constraint on suborbital flight and increasing it makes reentry harder. There comes a point where a single OMS burn is the only difference between suborbital and orbital. An inflatable play field like that might be an option for a Dragon. It would need to be disposable and docking might be an issue but it should be workable.

  3. johnhare johnhare says:

    They didn’t stop and try to perfect SS2 or New Shepard, they were trying to get them to work in the first place. Moving on from non-working vehicles renders them useless from a future development stand point as little to no information has been gained.

    I did mean balloot which is basically a balloon deployed as a drag device for reentry. I was suggesting another possibility. Main problem is as Jim says that there is not enough time in a suborbital flight.

    An inflatable like that for Dragon might be interesting as a play field on the flight and as a drag device to reduce heat loads on the ship.

  4. Dave+Salt says:

    I suggested this to Mitch Clapp at SA’04 with respect to Rocketplane and he gave me what I can only call a ‘strange look’ with no verbal reply… though he may have said something like “are you crazy” under this breath 🙂

    It’s a good idea and is effectively what enabled Leonov to perform the first spacewalk from Voskhod 2. Unfortunately, as you point out, time constraints are its Achilles heal with respect to suborbital flights.

  5. Spike says:

    @johnhare I must disagree with that assessment.

    New Shepard’s first flight was in 2015 and they achieved landing on their second try that same year . Every flight since has been successful. If that isn’t a working design then I’ve never seen one.

    SpaceShip is even worse. SpaceShipOne achieved all of its design goals when it won the X-Prize in 2004. SpaceShipTwo is scaled up to carry more passengers and has a few incremental improvements but is otherwise the same vehicle. It has been flying since 2013.

    Balloot=Balloon parachute, aka ballute. Doh.

  6. johnhare johnhare says:

    Neither of them is a fully operational system yet. If they were fully operational working vehicle as defined in their original hype, they would be making frequent scheduled flights. Neither of them is even now scheduled for frequent commercial flights. Whatever the hype, they are both still being operated as prototype vehicles by their parent companies. SS2 in particular has not been flying consistently since 2013. You might want to check out Halloween 2014 and since.

    Balloot-Ballute. One of my references used balloot and I never checked. Ballute is the correct spelling.

  7. Bob Steinke says:

    The early 2000s new space concept of suborbital as a stepping stone to orbital had two parts: a technology part and a financial part. On the financial side, suborbital revenue service was seen as a way for a small company to gain legitimacy and access the huge piles of investment needed to develop orbital systems.

    It’s interesting that the technical development of Starship (not Falcon, just Starship) has followed exactly the blueprint laid out by the new space thinkers: full reusability and intact abort designed in from the start allows suborbital testing of each stage separately. This allows incremental development through many prototypes of increasing fidelity, with the expectation that some will be lost in testing.

    What no one predicted is that the financial path went through a conventional expendable with revenue service in existing orbital markets and not through suborbital revenue flights.

  8. johnhare johnhare says:

    I was definitely one that predicted wrong on suborbital.

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