Author Topic: Virgin Galactic (Orbit) preparing for busy LauncherOne future  (Read 23556 times)

Offline jongoff

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #20 on: 07/05/2016 05:38 PM »
Launch location is always going to be limited by the number of airports that are both big enough to accomodate a 747 and have LOX/RP1 storage and handling facilities.

The number of airports that can handle a 747 is pretty large. And RP-1 is similar enough to jet fuel that my guess is those accomodations will be pretty easy to come by. LOX is the only even remotely challenging one, and in the sizes they're dealing with can probably be handled by a LOX dewar truck from an industrial gas supplier.

For air-launched LOX/RP-1 rockets in this size class, with this size of mothership, my guess is they could fly out of several dozen airports in the CONUS alone.

~Jon

Offline mfck

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #21 on: 07/05/2016 05:58 PM »
How viable is the possibility that air launch platform can be it's own range support? Is it possible to contain all the needed tracking and comms in a 747?

Offline dwheeler

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #22 on: 07/05/2016 06:40 PM »
Launch location is always going to be limited by the number of airports that are both big enough to accomodate a 747 and have LOX/RP1 storage and handling facilities.

The number of airports that can handle a 747 is pretty large. And RP-1 is similar enough to jet fuel that my guess is those accomodations will be pretty easy to come by. LOX is the only even remotely challenging one, and in the sizes they're dealing with can probably be handled by a LOX dewar truck from an industrial gas supplier.

For air-launched LOX/RP-1 rockets in this size class, with this size of mothership, my guess is they could fly out of several dozen airports in the CONUS alone.

~Jon
I would think the FAA wouldn't allow fully fueled rocket operations at most busy commercial airports... at least not without some pretty stringent restrictions like temporarily shutting down the airport for normal airport operations. It looks like even Pegasus is limited to specific government and/or military airports:

http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/PHMSA/SPA_App/OfferDocuments/SP11215_2011021190.pdf

Quote
(3)  All captive carry operations will originate from Vandenburg AFB; Wallops Flight Facility; Patrick AFB; Cape Canaveral AS; Kennedy Space Center; or the Bucholz Army Air Facility, United States Army Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. To a maximum extent possible, after departing these facilities airspace, in-flight operations involving the L-1011/Pegasus must be conducted over the ocean. Alternate abort landing sites for Vandenburg AFB are Edwards AFB and the Mojave Airport/Spaceport.

Offline Kryten

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #23 on: 07/05/2016 07:40 PM »
I would think the FAA wouldn't allow fully fueled rocket operations at most busy commercial airports... at least not without some pretty stringent restrictions like temporarily shutting down the airport for normal airport operations. It looks like even Pegasus is limited to specific government and/or military airports:

http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/PHMSA/SPA_App/OfferDocuments/SP11215_2011021190.pdf

Quote
(3)  All captive carry operations will originate from Vandenburg AFB; Wallops Flight Facility; Patrick AFB; Cape Canaveral AS; Kennedy Space Center; or the Bucholz Army Air Facility, United States Army Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. To a maximum extent possible, after departing these facilities airspace, in-flight operations involving the L-1011/Pegasus must be conducted over the ocean. Alternate abort landing sites for Vandenburg AFB are Edwards AFB and the Mojave Airport/Spaceport.
How was the launch from the Canaries possible, then? Is that just something they can't do anymore?

Offline jongoff

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #24 on: 07/05/2016 07:43 PM »
Launch location is always going to be limited by the number of airports that are both big enough to accomodate a 747 and have LOX/RP1 storage and handling facilities.

The number of airports that can handle a 747 is pretty large. And RP-1 is similar enough to jet fuel that my guess is those accomodations will be pretty easy to come by. LOX is the only even remotely challenging one, and in the sizes they're dealing with can probably be handled by a LOX dewar truck from an industrial gas supplier.

For air-launched LOX/RP-1 rockets in this size class, with this size of mothership, my guess is they could fly out of several dozen airports in the CONUS alone.

~Jon
I would think the FAA wouldn't allow fully fueled rocket operations at most busy commercial airports... at least not without some pretty stringent restrictions like temporarily shutting down the airport for normal airport operations. It looks like even Pegasus is limited to specific government and/or military airports:

I think you're thinking about this wrong. First off, solids by definition have the fuel and oxidizer premixed, and thus have a "quantity distance" associated with them based on past military experience. Quantity distance says "this system is equivalent to this much TNT, and therefore people need to be kept this far back from the system in this configuration". For solids by definition you always have that quantity distance issue, but for liquids, that only really becomes an issue when you have them close enough to each other that you could realistically mix them in a way to create an explosion.

VG has a lot of options in this regard, including not loading both propellants into the vehicle on the ground, or only loading them out on a trim pad away from the main airport. When you have a 747-sized vehicle, fitting tanks inside that are big enough to completely fill one or the other propellant once airborne is probably pretty doable. You likely would want some sort of "top off" tank to compensate for LOX boiloff during flight, and this would just be a bigger version of the same. Or you could load LOX on the ground and transfer RP-1 in flight. Either of those would make the system have a negligible quantity-distance while on the ground. Or as I mentioned, loading one of the propellants only once you're away from other vehicles. Lots of ways of dealing with this, I just think that going off of how Pegasus was handled may not be the best guide for what is possible--especially if they're being smart about things.

~Jon

Offline joek

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #25 on: 07/05/2016 08:06 PM »
I think you're thinking about this wrong. First off, solids by definition have the fuel and oxidizer premixed, and thus have a "quantity distance" associated with them based on past military experience. Quantity distance says "this system is equivalent to this much TNT, and therefore people need to be kept this far back from the system in this configuration". For solids by definition you always have that quantity distance issue, but for liquids, that only really becomes an issue when you have them close enough to each other that you could realistically mix them in a way to create an explosion.

VG has a lot of options in this regard, including not loading both propellants into the vehicle on the ground, or only loading them out on a trim pad away from the main airport. When you have a 747-sized vehicle, fitting tanks inside that are big enough to completely fill one or the other propellant once airborne is probably pretty doable. You likely would want some sort of "top off" tank to compensate for LOX boiloff during flight, and this would just be a bigger version of the same. Or you could load LOX on the ground and transfer RP-1 in flight. Either of those would make the system have a negligible quantity-distance while on the ground. Or as I mentioned, loading one of the propellants only once you're away from other vehicles. Lots of ways of dealing with this, I just think that going off of how Pegasus was handled may not be the best guide for what is possible--especially if they're being smart about things.

Liquid propellants also have FAA storage siting and protection rules (generally based on TNT equivalent).  Whether that storage is in a 747 or on the ground, similar rules would apply.  The rules are covered under FAA CFR 420, License to Operate a Launch Site.  As a launch license covers the time from start of ground operations--which presumably would include such--launch license regulations would also be a consideration.

Presumably VG has already had those conversations with the FAA.

Offline Comga

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #26 on: 07/05/2016 08:16 PM »
This discussion is going in the opposite direction from the question at hand.  It's not so much where they take off, but where the launch occurs.

We know that 747s carry large payloads over enormous distances.  It is likely that Cosmic Girl can carry Launcher One well out to sea, but VG says they are not going to do this. The plan is to launch from near the shore in all cases.

They appear to be using the range assets of three USAF or NASA launch ranges, Vandenberg, KSC/CCAFS, and Wallops.

Why?
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline joek

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #27 on: 07/05/2016 09:13 PM »
This discussion is going in the opposite direction from the question at hand.  It's not so much where they take off, but where the launch occurs.

We know that 747s carry large payloads over enormous distances.  It is likely that Cosmic Girl can carry Launcher One well out to sea, but VG says they are not going to do this. The plan is to launch from near the shore in all cases.

They appear to be using the range assets of three USAF or NASA launch ranges, Vandenberg, KSC/CCAFS, and Wallops.

Why?

1. Air space clearance?  May be much more difficult outside of range areas.
2. Surface area clearance?  See (1).
3. Tracking?  Sea Launch required additional tracking assets (e.g., ships, TDRS).[1]
4. Environmental impact?  Sea Launch had to get an environmental assessment for launch site and transit.

[1] edit: I don't know what they actually ended up using.
« Last Edit: 07/05/2016 09:19 PM by joek »

Offline CameronD

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #28 on: 07/06/2016 12:00 AM »
Liquid propellants also have FAA storage siting and protection rules (generally based on TNT equivalent).  Whether that storage is in a 747 or on the ground, similar rules would apply.  The rules are covered under FAA CFR 420, License to Operate a Launch Site.  As a launch license covers the time from start of ground operations--which presumably would include such--launch license regulations would also be a consideration.

Presumably VG has already had those conversations with the FAA.

It's worth emphasising that storage rules would preclude operations like that from most (certainly busy) commercial airports anywhere in the world.  As it stands now, there are heavy restrictions on where even fully-armed military aircraft are parked at commercial airports, let alone anything carrying a tank of LOX in close proximity to kerosene.  Typically they'd have to find a rarely-used section of taxiway to park on, nowhere near any terminals or commercial operations.

It's also possible import/export regulations on carriage of RP-1 might restrict VG's operations to mainland USA.

« Last Edit: 07/06/2016 01:31 AM by CameronD »
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #29 on: 07/06/2016 03:25 AM »
Liquid propellants also have FAA storage siting and protection rules (generally based on TNT equivalent).  Whether that storage is in a 747 or on the ground, similar rules would apply.  The rules are covered under FAA CFR 420, License to Operate a Launch Site.  As a launch license covers the time from start of ground operations--which presumably would include such--launch license regulations would also be a consideration.

Presumably VG has already had those conversations with the FAA.

It's worth emphasising that storage rules would preclude operations like that from most (certainly busy) commercial airports anywhere in the world.  As it stands now, there are heavy restrictions on where even fully-armed military aircraft are parked at commercial airports, let alone anything carrying a tank of LOX in close proximity to kerosene.  Typically they'd have to find a rarely-used section of taxiway to park on, nowhere near any terminals or commercial operations.

It's also possible import/export regulations on carriage of RP-1 might restrict VG's operations to mainland USA.



LOX Dewars are fairly routinely flown on C-17s (and of course there is LOX on the aircraft for breathing, too, see loading image below).  The C-17 was designed with LOX cryo vents both port and starboard to permit such operations. 

Offline CameronD

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #30 on: 07/06/2016 03:31 AM »
LOX Dewars are fairly routinely flown on C-17s (and of course there is LOX on the aircraft for breathing, too, see loading image below).  The C-17 was designed with LOX cryo vents both port and starboard to permit such operations.

Interesting, but my point still stands: a LOX-carrying aircraft is likely to be restricted to flying from military/non-RPT airfields. ..and of course LOX isn't used for breathing air on a 747.
With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine - however, this is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are
going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

Offline russianhalo117

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #31 on: 07/06/2016 03:40 AM »
LOX Dewars are fairly routinely flown on C-17s (and of course there is LOX on the aircraft for breathing, too, see loading image below).  The C-17 was designed with LOX cryo vents both port and starboard to permit such operations.

Interesting, but my point still stands: a LOX-carrying aircraft is likely to be restricted to flying from military/non-RPT airfields. ..and of course LOX isn't used for breathing air on a 747.

GOX is only used on Commercial Aircraft. Government versions of aircraft have the option for LOX. Presidential B747s carry both LOX and GOX.
Common example (http://www.lockheedmartin.com/us/products/LM-100J.html) of what is required on government/military aircraft can be found here: http://www.codeonemagazine.com/article.html?item_id=140
http://www.lockheedmartin.com/content/dam/lockheed/data/aero/documents/LM100J/LM100J_Litho2015.pdf
« Last Edit: 07/06/2016 03:44 AM by russianhalo117 »

Online Zed_Noir

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #32 on: 07/06/2016 04:32 AM »
I would think the FAA wouldn't allow fully fueled rocket operations at most busy commercial airports... at least not without some pretty stringent restrictions like temporarily shutting down the airport for normal airport operations. It looks like even Pegasus is limited to specific government and/or military airports:

http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/PHMSA/SPA_App/OfferDocuments/SP11215_2011021190.pdf

Quote
(3)  All captive carry operations will originate from Vandenburg AFB; Wallops Flight Facility; Patrick AFB; Cape Canaveral AS; Kennedy Space Center; or the Bucholz Army Air Facility, United States Army Kwajalein Atoll, Marshall Islands. To a maximum extent possible, after departing these facilities airspace, in-flight operations involving the L-1011/Pegasus must be conducted over the ocean. Alternate abort landing sites for Vandenburg AFB are Edwards AFB and the Mojave Airport/Spaceport.
How was the launch from the Canaries possible, then? Is that just something they can't do anymore?
It is quite simple. The venerable L-1011 aircraft (aka Star Grazer) use by Orbital ATK for launching the Pegasus does not met the current noise regulations for operation at a civilian air facility AIUI. I believe the Star Grazer is one of the few air-worthy L-1011s left.

Offline fthomassy

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #33 on: 07/06/2016 02:22 PM »
LOX Dewars are fairly routinely flown on C-17s (and of course there is LOX on the aircraft for breathing, too, see loading image below).  The C-17 was designed with LOX cryo vents both port and starboard to permit such operations.
Pictured, I believe, are EC-130.
gyatm . . . Fern

Offline jongoff

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #34 on: 07/06/2016 03:31 PM »
LOX Dewars are fairly routinely flown on C-17s (and of course there is LOX on the aircraft for breathing, too, see loading image below).  The C-17 was designed with LOX cryo vents both port and starboard to permit such operations.

Interesting, but my point still stands: a LOX-carrying aircraft is likely to be restricted to flying from military/non-RPT airfields. ..and of course LOX isn't used for breathing air on a 747.

I still think you guys are seriously overthinking this. Until you load the LOX, the 747 and rocket are no different from any other 747 danger-wise. If having the LOX in a dewar in the vehicle isn't considered safe enough to treat it like a "normal aircraft", you just do the LOX loading out on a trim pad right before takeoff (and vent the LOX before returning to the airport if you have an abort). This isn't like a solid that's by definition always fueled with fuel and oxidizer intimately mixed at all times.

But going back to Comga's point, VG is going to have no lack of launch airport options. Even if they insisted on loading LOX into the rocket right at their hangar, the number of airports that could probably accomodate that is still well more than the 3-4 they actually need. The bigger question is why in that situation are they primarily flying out of traditional launch ranges when supposedly one of the benefits of air launch is not having to be tied to said ranges?

~Jon

Online HMXHMX

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #35 on: 07/06/2016 03:49 PM »
LOX Dewars are fairly routinely flown on C-17s (and of course there is LOX on the aircraft for breathing, too, see loading image below).  The C-17 was designed with LOX cryo vents both port and starboard to permit such operations.
Pictured, I believe, are EC-130.

Yes, it's being serviced for breathing LOX.  I couldn't handily find a C-17 image in brief search.

Offline Comga

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #36 on: 07/06/2016 04:21 PM »
(snip)
But going back to Comga's point, VG is going to have no lack of launch airport options. Even if they insisted on loading LOX into the rocket right at their hangar, the number of airports that could probably accomodate that is still well more than the 3-4 they actually need. The bigger question is why in that situation are they primarily flying out of traditional launch ranges when supposedly one of the benefits of air launch is not having to be tied to said ranges?

~Jon

Precisely

Many states are supporting spaceports and others are trying to create them: Florida, Virginia, California, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, ...
Airborne launch would seem to be able to locate in any of them with costal access.  Why tie LauncherOne to existing range AND limit their versatility?
There must be a technical or regulatory reason.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

Offline jongoff

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #37 on: 07/06/2016 05:25 PM »
(snip)
But going back to Comga's point, VG is going to have no lack of launch airport options. Even if they insisted on loading LOX into the rocket right at their hangar, the number of airports that could probably accomodate that is still well more than the 3-4 they actually need. The bigger question is why in that situation are they primarily flying out of traditional launch ranges when supposedly one of the benefits of air launch is not having to be tied to said ranges?

~Jon

Precisely

Many states are supporting spaceports and others are trying to create them: Florida, Virginia, California, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, ...
Airborne launch would seem to be able to locate in any of them with costal access.  Why tie LauncherOne to existing range AND limit their versatility?
There must be a technical or regulatory reason.

They could also be trying to start simple, and then evolve as capabilities get proven out? Maybe the rangeless range stuff from ALASA didn't make as much progress as it sounded like.

~Jon

Offline RonM

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Re: Virgin Galactic preparing for busy LauncherOne future
« Reply #38 on: 07/06/2016 07:35 PM »
(snip)
But going back to Comga's point, VG is going to have no lack of launch airport options. Even if they insisted on loading LOX into the rocket right at their hangar, the number of airports that could probably accomodate that is still well more than the 3-4 they actually need. The bigger question is why in that situation are they primarily flying out of traditional launch ranges when supposedly one of the benefits of air launch is not having to be tied to said ranges?

~Jon

Precisely

Many states are supporting spaceports and others are trying to create them: Florida, Virginia, California, New Mexico, Texas, Georgia, Colorado, ...
Airborne launch would seem to be able to locate in any of them with costal access.  Why tie LauncherOne to existing range AND limit their versatility?
There must be a technical or regulatory reason.

They could also be trying to start simple, and then evolve as capabilities get proven out? Maybe the rangeless range stuff from ALASA didn't make as much progress as it sounded like.

~Jon

The benefit of air launch is not being tied to a launch pad. There's nothing wrong with operating from an airstrip at a range. There's probably lots of advantages as far as regulations go. VG can always expand to other locations if there was some economic reason for it.

Just spitballing but would they not try to use the old shuttle abort airstrips? extra long runways and most are not commercial?

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