physics

Rocket Science

Deserves its name. Almost everybody has a lot of misconceptions about rockets and space travel and planetary mechanics.

Here are some valid points I’d like to emphasize:

  1. The most economic angle to launch a rocket from an airless planet is at 0 degrees elevation, direction to the east. The next time you’re returning from Moon, just go east young man!
  2. The most economical launching pad on Earth in the terms of rocket fuel is Chimborazo mountain, Ecuador.
  3. Fuel costs are not very significant in overall costs.
  4. A coal, wood or wax rocket could reach the orbit.  Even a rocket propelled by compressed air could. It would simply require a few more stages.
  5. The more g, the less fuel is needed to reach the orbit. A super cannon could launch cheaply, if there were no people and no delicate instruments on board and if there was no atmosphere. A Moon based horizontal cannon would be very good.
  6. An Earth based launching cannon could not be chemical, but electromagnetic for example. You can shoot a bullet from some special military guns from the Moon to the Earth. Not the other way around.
  7. An Earth based space cannon would require a heat shield all the way up through the atmosphere. Rockets don’t need that, since they start very slowly. For the same reason they are not very energy efficient.
  8. With the space lift the minimal energy needed to leave the planet is negative! You actually get a lot of energy by launching a kilogram of mass from the Earth’s surface. The space lift must be tall  enough, but still less than the Moon is high in the sky.
  9. As the Moon slowly moves away from Earth, both go away from the Sun! We are on a collision course with Jupiter. Jupiter is on a collision course with the Sun, but our collision is scheduled first.
  10. Our Solar system is very unusual. Too many gas giants and planet orbits that are too circular. But don’t worry, it’s normalizing slowly, becoming inhospitable.
  11. There might be some objects in space, leftovers from the nuclear detonations after WW2. Ulam’s doors (remains?) could be farther away than Voyagers and Pioneers.

If you don’t agree with at least one of the above statements, one of us is wrong.

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