Orbiter One Program

I was reading about the first designs from NASA for the Space Shuttle and, boy, what wonderful concepts.

I was considering what one I would try to implement when, by accident, I stomped on this.

Dude, what epic image!

Then I though... What if the Space Shuttle would be designed to be launched horizontally using a reusable trolley with boosters?

Interesting idea.

So I decided that I wanted to build one of these beasts to kick 120 tons of cargo and 32 Kerbals into LKO.


Because such a Shuttle would allow reasonable costs to ferry materials and workers to build a Commercial Space Station - absolutely no expandable hardware to be wasted, and once the Station is stablished, it would keep it crewed and properly supplied at relatively low cost.

A call it Orbiter One, as this is my really first attempt to build such a vessel from scratch.

These are my first 4 tries on such a stunt:

Revision A

My first attempt was terribly naive. :D

In an attempt to save fuel, I though that I could use Whiplashes to raise her to the upper atmosphere, reach Mach 4.3 or 4.5 and then the Rapiers would do the rest of the job in Closed Cycle.

Problem: no enough thrust. She did a relatively nice job on reaching high altitudes with a decent speed, but far, really far from the needed to even try a suborbital flight.

The ventral fins gave her a nice touch, but I could not manage to land her without smashing them.

Oh well, she's fun to fly.

Revision B

This was a wild one. Good thrust on the atmosphere, she crossed the skies as a rocket - on low atmosphere. :)

As I already knew, the 4 Rapiers are far from being enough to push her into orbital speeds, but I was considering using disposable boosters to give her that final kick into space.

The whiplashes gave her a hell of a punch, and besides being thirsty engines, are way less thirsty than the Rapiers on the atmosphere - so the boosters would feed from the internal tanks and yet allow her to have some flying time on the way back.

As an atmospheric, hypersonic airplane, she did surprisingly well - Mach 4.3 easily - but only 4 Rapiers are really too few to reach orbit, even with small boosters added.

This pornographic amount of Whiplashes turned her into a gas guzzler, however: more than 30 units of Fuel per second on the lower atmosphere! This hurt me badly when I missed an approach and had to go around.

Well, I decided to add a new Requirement to the project: have enough fuel on the way back to allow her to alternate or at least be able to do a go around on the landing.

Revision C

MOAR ENGINES :) 4 extra rapiers gave her some kick, but the fuel consumption became a real problem.

Remembering Buran, I tried some Wheesleys to see if I could allow her some manoeuvring margin while flying low, and interesting enough they provided her a nice extra kick on the initial stages of the flight, saving some fuel in the process (as the Whiplashes reached better ISP faster).

But in the end I realised I was only adding dead weight to be carried on on the upper atmosphere and space - and the 8 Rapiers still weren't enough for the final kick into space.

Doing some math, I cane to terms that a heterogenous engined craft was not paying up - kinda of obvious, but I had to try! :)

Revision D

This one almost did the trick. Got rid of the Whiplashes and shoved Rapiers everywhere.

Without the Whiplashes, however, I ended up using way more Oxidiser than Fuel, as now I have 20 hungry Rapiers to feed - and still giving me less thrust than the Whiplashes. One would imagine that Fuel would be a problem, but in the end I had to kick the closed cycle sooner and by then Oxidiser became my Achille's heels, not Fuel.

But other than that, Revision D proved being capable of carrying on the task! She had the power and the storage room to reach LKO once I provide her with enough Oxidiser, so...

Revision E

Rev E is essentially Rev D with some Mk2 tanks replaced by customised versions, Oxidiser only. You can get them here.

This is the revision I used on this slide show.