In the late 1960s and early 1970s, America used the Saturn V rocket to go to the Moon. The first stage of that rocket had an empty weight of 130,000 kilograms and carried 2,160,000 kilograms of propellant. It was used only once and then thrown away.
The second stage of the Saturn V had an empty weight of 40,100 kilograms and carried 456,100 kilograms of propellant. Like the first stage, this stage was used only once and thrown away.
The third stage of the Saturn V had an empty weight of 13,300 kilograms and carried 106,600 kilograms of propellant. This stage was also used once and thrown away.
The total empty weight of those three stages was 183,400 kilograms.
By comparison, a Boeing 747 has an empty weight of 183,000 kilograms. The 747 can fly 15 hours per day, 11 months per year, and has a useful life of 20 years. It also carries three hundred plus passengers per flight.
Each Saturn V made only one flight and carried only three passengers.
This is why spaceflight that is based on using expendable rockets costs so much.
This is also why SpaceX and Blue Origin are working so hard to develop reusable rockets.
In 1903 the Wright brothers made the first controlled sustained flight in a powered airplane. It was the beginning of aerospace.
In 1919 airplanes began crossing the North Atlantic.
In 1933 Boeing and Douglas introduced the first modern airliners.
It only took 30 years.
The first rocket to exceed 100 kilometers altitude was the German V-2 in 1944.
The first satellite to orbit the Earth was launched in 1957, and shortly thereafter the first manned spacecraft was launched in 1961.
Eight years after that, in 1969, people walked on the surface of the Moon.
It only took 25 years.
The last manned expedition to the Moon occurred in 1972. The primary reason for stopping was cost and the lack of a realistic vision for how to make it affordable.
It has now been 44 years since people walked on the Moon and we have yet to come up with a workable plan for how to make spaceflight affordable to everyone.
That is what this website is about, a realistic vision that will make spaceflight affordable to everyone, using existing technology and known concepts that can be built and operated for an affordable price. It’s about “Opening the High Frontier“.
One of the key concepts discussed in the book “Opening the High Frontier” is the idea of a combination launch system. This is a concept that combines multiple launch technologies together in order to reduce the velocity that the rocket-powered components of the launch system need to achieve to reach orbit. One of those launch assist systems is called a non-rotating Skyhook.
This video shows how a non-rotating Skyhook works.
It starts with an Orion spacecraft on a suborbital flight path that will take it within reach of a crane located at the lower end of the Skyhook. Upon capture, the crane docks the Orion with the Lower Endpoint Station. The Midpoint Station on the Skyhook, which was positioned at the upper end of the Skyhook cable for the rendezvous, then starts moving down the cable to the Lower Endpoint Station. Once the Midpoint Station and Lower Endpoint Station come together and dock, the ion propulsion system on the Midpoint Station is activated in order to start raising the orbital altitude of the Skyhook. While this is going on, the crew and passengers of the Orion spacecraft will transfer to the Midpoint Station and the Orion spacecraft will be transferred to one of the docking ports at the upper end of the Midpoint Station. Next, the Midpoint Station undocks from the Lower Endpoint Station and starts moving up the cable to the Upper Endpoint Station. Upon arrival, the passengers, crew, and Orion spacecraft are transferred to the Upper Endpoint Station, and the Midpoint Station starts back down the cable to the lower end. Once the Midpoint Station has arrived at the lower end of the cable and the Skyhook is at the proper orbital position, the Orion spacecraft is released from the Upper Endpoint Station to a higher orbit.
The power for all these orbit changes comes from the ion propulsion system on the Skyhook. Since the ion propulsion system is much more fuel efficient than a chemical rocket motor, the amount of propellant that needs to be carried into orbit is greatly reduced. The reduced velocity required for flying to the lower end of the Skyhook also increases the payload fraction of the launch vehicle and allows for the use of a smaller reusable launch vehicle, all of which reduces the cost of getting to orbit.
The Skyhook shown in the video is called a Basic Skyhook. In the beginning, when combined with an air-launched reusable first stage launch vehicle, it has the potential of reducing the cost to orbit by 85%. Over time, as the Skyhook is made longer, the launch vehicles get better, and the flight rate increases, it has the potential of reducing the cost to orbit to $20,000 per person.
I strongly recommend watching the video full screen, with the sound turned up!
“Opening the High Frontier” is about how to make spaceflight affordable to everyone. It is about the ideas and technologies that will allow us to affordably build a spacefaring civilization, to build cities on the Moon and Mars, to build Space Colonies and Satellite Solar Power Stations, and to mine the asteroids.
It is a book about a combination of concepts, some known and some not so well known, that can be affordably built right now with existing technology, that can make this happen.
It is about our path to an unlimited future, our path to Mars and the rest of the solar system, and someday, the first step on our journey to the stars.
It is about Opening the High Frontier for everyone.