Author Topic: Using the B-1B as a launch platform for the LauncherOne vehicle  (Read 2456 times)

Online Vahe231991

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 694
  • 11 Canyon Terrace
  • Liked: 164
  • Likes Given: 38
Someday, Virgin Orbit should acquire of the B-1B Lancer bombers in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB and use it as a launch platform for the LauncherOne. This could be akin to the 1990s proposal to use the Tu-160 Blackjack as a launch platform for the unbuilt Burlak air-launched SLV.

Offline SweetWater

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 117
  • Wisconsin, USA
  • Liked: 127
  • Likes Given: 107
What would be the practical benefit of this? The 747-400 they used for Cosmic Girl is pretty well suited for air launching Launcher One - it was designed by Boeing to bear loads inboard under the wing to transport engines when the need arose, so it needed a relatively minor amount of design work to sling a rocket in the same place. In addition it is a common airframe with lots of experienced pilots, mechanics, and ground personnel and spare parts that will be plentiful for the foreseeable future.

In contrast the B-1B - assuming the Air Force would even sell one, which is hard to believe - is a well-known maintenance nightmare without the above benefits of the 747. If Virgin Orbit needs more carrier aircraft in the future, it would seem to make a lot more sense to buy further 747s, which will probably be available at very reasonable prices on the secondhand market as more airlines transition away from 4 engine widebodies.

Offline trimeta

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1160
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Liked: 1577
  • Likes Given: 48
The question is, will Virgin Orbit ever decide that LauncherOne is too small, and that Cosmic Girl (or similar converted 747-400s) could never hold LauncherTwo, even with modifications? I suppose it depends where the market goes: three of the six major US-based small launch providers (Rocket Lab, Firefly, Relativity) have plans to become medium (or the the case of Relativity, heavy) launch providers. Can Virgin Orbit survive with small launch alone? And if not, what are their realistic options for scaling up?

Offline ncb1397

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 3497
  • Liked: 2307
  • Likes Given: 29
What would be the practical benefit of this?

I guess because the B-1B has a higher flight ceiling and can fly supersonic. Technically, LauncherOne fits within the payload limit. Not sure if you could launch something like LauncherOne while supersonic. I'm guessing there would have to be modifications for external carry on the centerline replacing internal storage, the payload bay doors, etc. The biggest thing the B-1B has launched externally is a ~2000 pound cruise missile (compared to the ~60,000 pound LauncherOne)...but the Boeing 747 wasn't really designed with launching a 60,000 pound missile in mind either.
« Last Edit: 06/08/2021 05:05 am by ncb1397 »

Offline russianhalo117

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 8085
  • Liked: 3893
  • Likes Given: 750
Someday, Virgin Orbit should acquire of the B-1B Lancer bombers in storage at Davis-Monthan AFB and use it as a launch platform for the LauncherOne. This could be akin to the 1990s proposal to use the Tu-160 Blackjack as a launch platform for the unbuilt Burlak air-launched SLV.
Not possible at this time nor a reality.

Online ZachS09

  • Space Savant
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7993
  • Roanoke, TX
  • Liked: 1962
  • Likes Given: 1833
What would be the practical benefit of this?

I guess because the B-1B has a higher flight ceiling and can fly supersonic. Technically, LauncherOne fits within the payload limit. Not sure if you could launch something like LauncherOne while supersonic. I'm guessing there would have to be modifications for external carry on the centerline replacing internal storage, the payload bay doors, etc. The biggest thing the B-1B has launched externally is a ~2000 pound cruise missile (compared to the ~60,000 pound LauncherOne)...but the Boeing 747 wasn't really designed with launching a 60,000 pound missile in mind either.

Iím not sure if going supersonic prior to drop would be safe for LauncherOne, especially since itís not in powered flight for five seconds. Like, it might break up even before ignition.

Speaking of which, how big of a deceleration would there be immediately after LauncherOne is dropped?
Liftoff for St. Jude's! Go Dragon, Go Falcon, Godspeed Inspiration4!

Offline darkenfast

  • Member
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1379
  • Liked: 1561
  • Likes Given: 6950
I seriously doubt that the B-1B can fly supersonic while carrying an Space Ship Two externally. It can achieve Mach 1.25 at altitude, presumably clean.
Writer of Book and Lyrics for musicals "SCAR", "Cinderella!", and "Aladdin!". Retired Naval Security Group. "I think SCAR is a winner. Great score, [and] the writing is up there with the very best!"
-- Phil Henderson, Composer of the West End musical "The Far Pavilions".

Offline Zed_Noir

  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 4369
  • Canada
  • Liked: 1321
  • Likes Given: 1146
One of the B-1A might be able to do some sort of zoom climb carrying a rocket in a similar manner to the old Soviet bombers carrying large supersonic cruise missile after some major re-work of the bomb bays.


IIRC the B-1B have fixed engine intakes to reduce radar signature that limit maximum airspeed to mach 1.25, while the B-1A with variable engine intakes is capable mach 2.2 at altitude.


It is unlikely that either the B-1A or B-1B will be use as space launch platform due to their age (in fatigue life) and expense in the conversion.


There is the Stratolaunch Roc (aka Birdzilla) that was designed to drop medium space launchers for orbital launches available.


Offline jstrotha0975

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 433
  • United States
  • Liked: 265
  • Likes Given: 2057
It makes more sense for VO to dig an old B-52 out of the bone yard.

Offline Stan-1967

  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 983
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Liked: 929
  • Likes Given: 515
I think VirginOrbit could pivot nicely ( accelerating toward bankruptcy) by using the B1-B as a space launch vehicle. Rather than have it launch Launcher one, strap the entire B1-B to the top of a modified Cosmic Girl 747 carrier aircraft. ( same as was done with STS)  Ditch the B1-B's GE F101 turbofan engine pods & replace them with two SABRE testbed engines.   This could obsolete LauncherOne, & replace Spaceship 2/3 as well if they merged with Virgin Galactic.

Apologies for the drift OT.  Thread topic is highly speculative, so it makes one think of what fun can be had with excess boneyard metal.

Offline Jim

  • Night Gator
  • Senior Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 36050
  • Cape Canaveral Spaceport
  • Liked: 18546
  • Likes Given: 398
strap the entire B1-B to the top of a modified Cosmic Girl 747 carrier aircraft. ( same as was done with STS) 

not feasible.  The shuttle had hard points that allowed for this.

Ditch the B1-B's GE F101 turbofan engine pods & replace them with two SABRE testbed engines.

not feasible.  B-1 doesn't have thermal capability for speeds that SABRE operates at.

Offline LaunchedIn68

  • Full Member
  • *
  • Posts: 171
  • Deer Park, NY
  • Liked: 140
  • Likes Given: 367
Actually I wish Branson would've purchased the last flying Vulcan Bomber as a launch platform.  ;D
It was recently grounded because of funding.  Some revenue might have helped keep it flying, and make some airshow appearances in the off time.

Branson could've painted it up in its all anti-flash white scheme, and even put his classic Virgin nose art on it!  8)

http://www.fiddlersgreen.net/aircraft/Avro-Vulcan/IMAGES/Avro-Vulcan-Bomber-Bank.jpg

"I want to build a spaceship, go to the moon, salvage all the junk that's up there, bring it back, sell it." - Harry Broderick

Tags: b-1b LauncherOne burlak 
 

Advertisement NovaTech
Advertisement SkyTale Software GmbH
Advertisement Northrop Grumman
Advertisement
Advertisement Brady Kenniston
Advertisement NextSpaceflight
Advertisement Nathan Barker Photography
1