Why Don’t We Launch More Rockets From Airplanes?
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Why Don’t We Launch More Rockets From Airplanes?

January 21, 2020

If we have spacecraft that go like this, why
can’t we have spacecraft that go LIKE THIS?! Hey flight-suits thanks for stopping by DNews,
I’m Trace! On December 15, NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation
Satellite System –or CYGNSS — launched into Low-Earth orbit on a weird launch vehicle…
this one. Horizontal? Wtf? Why do we launch everything like THIS and
not like THIS? When you picture rockets… you probably think
the Space Shuttle, Apollo’s Saturn V, SpaceX’s Falcon, Blue Origin’s New Glenn, and Orbital
ATK’s Antares, or maybe just model rockets at home — regardless, they’re all vertical
takeoff launches, but why? In 2013, there were 81 space launches and
a handful of failures; in 2014: 92 launches with 90 reaching orbit successfully. Vertical chemical rockets are risky and expensive. But, according to the FAA, flight controllers
handle 50,000 flights every day. So why not “launch” sideways? First, we have! In 1963, NASA strapped a tiny plane called
an X-15 to the bottom of a B-52. Once they achieved altitude, they sent the
pilot just barely into space. These projects were essential in learning
how to enter and exit space, how to design pressure suits for pilots, how air friction
could heat up the surface of a vehicle… and so many other things. Then, in the late-1980s, Orbital Sciences
engineer Dr. Antonio Elias updated his old design and ended up incepting the design of
Pegasus — which is the launch you saw at the top of this video. Pegasus launches from the belly of a mothership,
the Lockheed L-1011, and it’s been used since 1990. Put simply, the L-1011 lifts the Pegasus to
the regular cruising altitude of about 40,000 feet (12,200m), and drops it! Then the delta-style wings and the rocket
shoot it toward space reaching low-earth orbit in about 10 minutes. These horizontal systems have a few advantages! For example, the atmosphere at about 40,000
feet (12,200m) is thinner which means less friction and potentially less fuel, airplanes
can move the rocket above the weather avoiding some of those launch challenges, and because
you can fly the payload anywhere you don’t need a launchpad! In this case, the Pegasus launched over the
Pacific Ocean, about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. Unfortunately, a DARPA study found when you
factor in the cost of the launch vehicles, it can make them more expensive. In the end, airplane-style launches versus
vertical launches have different goals. To escape Earth’s gravity, a rocket needs
to go 7 miles per second or 25,000 mph (11,176 m/s). The fastest airplane ever built? That X-15, and it only hits 4,520 mph (2,020
m/s). Shooting straight up is the quickest way to
reach escape velocity, and can carry a lot of mass on it’s way. The Space Launch System, that NASA is developing,
can carry almost 70,000 kilograms. The Pegasus can only carry 443 kilograms. That being said, the Pegasus isn’t the end-all
of horizontal flight. The Stratolaunch system by Vulcan aerospace
will use a six-engine airplane and could fly to 40,000 feet (12,200m) and launch a full-size
SpaceX Falcon9! The plane would need a wingspan longer than
a football field… wider than the statue of liberty is tall. It’s crazy. More realistically, a NASA project is in the
works that uses tracks (similar to roller coasters at theme parks, but ridiculously
fast). These could be used to propel winged spaceplane. Though at the moment they’re only thinking
about drones. If you want to launch people you could think
of the SpaceShipOne, which carried the first human on a commercial spaceflight in 2004. It hooks onto the belly of a specialized plane
called the White Night. As commercial spaceflight expands, you’ll
probably see more of these horizontal launches in the future. So, why don’t we launch from airplanes? We do! Just, not that often. Wondering why it’s so hard to launch rockets
sometimes? Amy and I have that answer here. Which is your favorite? The booming excitement of a ground-based launches,
or the screaming freefall of an air launch? Let us know in the comments, make sure you subscribe so you get more DNews and thanks for watching.

Only registered users can comment.

  1. because our heavy lift jet aircraft are not designed to carry a large rocket. In order to make this a 'thing' you need a plane designed to carry a rocket instead of using a passenger plane to do what its not meant to.

  2. so if I asked you to research flattered if your cognitive dissidence will kick in and you'll think I'm nuts right even without doing any Research into it like artificial Horizons and aircraft don't deviate when they should be set off by the curvature of the Earth but they're not you can fly anywhere in the world then the artificial Horizons on Landing are perfectly level you can shoot a laser across it one or two or three mile Lake a couple inches off the water and you'll hit the other side a couple inches off the water all these things prove that the world is flat and yet you don't have the intellectual balls to actually investigate it

  3. "Requires less fuel" hahahahaha
    how about the jet fuel used that replaced rocket fuel? More expensive, more complicated, more impractical. End of discussion.

  4. 2:30 That is escape velocity( needed to escape from earths gravity completely) But most sattelites are put into low earth Orbit and just need to reach 7.8 Km/sec.

  5. The reason we do vertical launch is because of the space race. We had ICBM that worked good. We just had to build a capsule and stick on the front of it. Thus a space program.

  6. Stupid question. Do you know how big the satellite can be, and compare to the size of the biggest aircraft at the moment? A big satellite require a big booster that aircraft cannot carry. In the other hand, launching satellite to orbit requires 2 types of thrust vectors, which is horizontal vector and vertical vector. Vertical one is to get to the designed height, and it does not change between Vertical launch and Horizontal launch. Horizontal one is different since lower height has more drag force, thus it requires more horizontal thrust to get to the point of Orbit velocity, such that the satellite would not fall back to the Earth.

  7. Erm I take you don't know about skylon that's currently being worked on then? Takes off from a runway and can go into space.

  8. When I'm talking rocket, I think R7 first of all. Damn, why do US based youtube channels always ignore the Soviet/Russian space program?

  9. If you combine the miniaturization of satellites — that should come with nano tech — with the advantage of being able to move your launch vehicle to a more advantageous location rather than building a launch-site in the ideal place, I think this could start to change over time.

  10. I have an idea, why not make a traditional flight with people and them paying for their seats bla bla bla. U get it. Then without them knowing put the rocket underneath which cost less then a huge rocket and launch something up into space!

  11. Based on the first image I'd venture that stupid landing gear would cause significant issues. But I'm not a rocket scientist so what would I know.

  12. Obviously I'm not talking about the near future, and I'm thinking big …

    Would it make sense to build a space tower? Let's say a 100km tall tower, with something like an aircraft carrier on top. An elevator lifts the rockets to the top; you launch them horizontally, maybe even land there; You slow down with rockets (turn the spaceship 180°, land backwards…), then you don't need heat shields, you just take the elevator down (heat shields are just because of the speed at which the space ship enters the atmosphere).

  13. Correction to the information on Stratolaunch. The Stratolaunch system will not be using a Falcon 9 from SpaceX, they parted ways in 2012. It remains to be seen what rocket Stratolaunch will ultimately end up using. The latest news indicates it will be a ATK-Orbital rocket.

  14. i LOVE that concept of launching a scam jet rocket off a electromagnet ramp.
    really it's jsut all the best thing s to me (may need a satalite tow truck to exit earth's gravity, but i like taht idea too).

  15. I'm just waiting for the age of Space Planes. Just think about KSP, you build a jet that can go fast enough to take you to the higher atmosphere, then use an engine that's efficient in a vacuum (or near vacuum because you're still in the atmosphere) to reach orbit.

  16. Isn't that speed regarding exiting earth's gravity some myth or a false way of saying something similar. It's can't be like a wall up there that all of a sudden drags you down if you're travelling just a tad under that limit.

  17. Because the whole point of rockets is not to go into space but to fool sheeple that they go to space so trillions of their taxpayer money allocated for NASA and other space agencies can be used to stuff the elites wallets

  18. there are many orbital luanches that dont involve large amounts of wieght also the russians built …years ago the antanov 225 that is capable of carring enormous amounts of weight that plane was made in 1958 why can we build a larger plane as part of a dedicated launch system if you keep an open mind 100 tons is feasable

  19. Cant we put a ramjet on a monorail in Brazil attached to a seadragon, then launch 100 of those a day. Its not like the ramjet or monorail are going to have serious refurb costs. And it would prolly save enough O2 to make it insanely profitable once you sunk the trillions of dollars on infrastructure, complete monopoly on all space travel probably.

  20. I think there should be a super-airplane chasis, like the SkyCrane Helicopter, specifically built to host and launch heavy rockets. A large air-platform if you will. That, when the wind is right, launches off the Kennedy runway. Being multiple times longer than the average runway, i think it could be possible.

  21. You guys should really delete this and do a much better version of the topic. You have to mention rocket staging and weight. Basically, stage 1 boosters are the only things that can get decent sized payloads out of the atmosphere and approaching orbital velocities before the rest of the rocket takes over.

  22. Anybody remember the movie "When Worlds Collide"? They used a rocket based catapult rail system to launch up the side of a mountain. AND now we are using rail guns, why not scale one up the same way to use electricity to magnetically launch payloads with only ONE rocket stage (as in Robert Heinlein's book "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress") ?

  23. Agent Austin! The reason it tastes like shhh, is because it IS… The reason why they never tried to take rockets up on a aircraft into near orbit is because rockets we're actually invented before the Wright Bros got a plane in the sky, yeah it's retarded, why the heck would you try to take something so vertical so fast when your destination isn't literally over you, your not in a actually hotrod race against another vertical craft, and it always costed more then jet or airline craft, by now they should have made a craft that can verticly levetate off a pad, soure into the sky like a modern fighter jet and launch final phase like a rocket into high orbit, like a fictional Melinium Falcon, in this Melinium! Not that fossil fuel guzzling BFR.

  24. 2:35 not only do you need to reach escape velocity but you need to reach this speed tangent to the surface of the planet

  25. I was thinking the opposite… Why don't we launch commercial airlines by lighter than air balloons that take them up to cruising altitude or above that release and fly themselves back down to the airport for solar powered recharge and reuse?!

  26. Time to go back to 6th grade and do some science. In order for there to be a force…there must be pressure…no pressure no force. Very simple stuff we are talking about here. Force = pressure over an area. In order for gases to have pressure they must be contained in some way. If gases are not contained the molecules will just keep moving away from each other and spread out evenly in all directions to try to reach an equilibrium because that is what nature does. They will search for equilibrium and eventually reach it unless a force is applied to the gas molecules. It's impossible for there to be pressure in the combustion chamber or a rocket or coming out of the exhaust because they are open to the vacuum of space..it is the atmosphere that gives rockets the ability to fly and move anywhere. It is the resistance of the exhaust gases that come out the exhaust of a rocket by the atmosphere that is responsible for the force in the direction of intended travel. The atmosphere prevents some of the exhaust gases from coming out of the exhaust resulting in an equal and opposite force back towards the rocket by the atmosphere. In order for there to be a reaction…there must be an action that caused the reaction. A wall can not provide an equal force back to me if I do not apply pressure to the wall to begin with. 2 separate things are needed in order to get an equal and opposite reaction that would be enough for space travel. Those 2 things are the rocket and the atmosphere. 1thing must use its own internal energy to create a force. Then that force must then be transferred to something else besides itself…again rockets can not blow their own sail for space travel. Think of it this way. you have two people that are lying on their backs on mechanics dollies to roll on wheels and to get underneath a car easily. Those two people are going to have a contest to see who can travel farther using one action only… One guy can use his legs to push against the wall one time but the other can not and must use only one thrusting motion and use his body weight only to scoot without touching anything else. They Are both using Newton's third law of equal and opposite reaction…but one of them is impossible to use for space travel and violates the laws of physics. The person that pushed against the wall represents 1 thing using it's own energy to create a force…then that force that was generated must then be transferred to something else besides itself..not transferring the force.. Like the person that could use only body weight and couldn't push against the wall…is called an internal force. Using only an internal Force without transferring it to something else can not generate enough force for space travel and violates the laws of physics…in fact…the only reason that you can scoot on a chair or dolly is because of earths gravity and friction. The forces would cancel in space resulting in 0 net force in any direction. Which one do you think nasa claims their rockets use…u guessed it…nasa rockets in space use internal energy only without transferring it to something else…even if you say nasa is in the vacuum of space with a rocket burning fuel…because their is no resistance to the exhaust gases that come out the rocket in space….the same exact force would go in the direction of travel and the exhaust the opposite way…they would cancel and go nowhere…hey nasa where u going… Nowhere..anyone that understands electricity and how resistance is needed for current flow should understand this because it works the same exact way

  27. Why don't we make rockets takeoff and fly like an aeroplane and the higher it goes the faster it gets i am sure we can save alot of fuel this way.

  28. 3:45 very disappointed this video only discussed advantages but didn't state any disadvantages or any reasons about "Why don't we". Thankfully Scott Manley has a better video… https://youtu.be/yw84qJIGZeo

  29. Two seconds in and I already feel my IQ has been lowered. Far OUT.
    Sorry, sorry *resumes video*, I'm good to go. This is an interesting question. Bring on the science.

  30. They are launched vertically and then tip over on their ballistic arc downward into the sea so dumbasses can see them and be duped . An efficient airborne launch takes away the show .

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