3305. The Good and Bad about Single-Stage-to Orbit


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Ian O. MacConochie: 3305. The Good and Bad about Single-Stage-to Orbit. 2003.



The good aspect of single-stage-to-orbit is that there are no lower stages that must be recovered. If the launch system is multi-stage, recovery is made difficult because staging at any reasonable lapsed time from liftoff means that the lower stages are a long way from the launch site. When the reusability rule is invoked, early stages must be equipped with wings and wheels, parachutes, or some other means of returning the stage to the launch site. Disadvantages of single stage include high sensitivity to weight growth, difficulty in obtaining meaningful payloads for reasonable assumptions of technology, and tendency for center of gravity to migrate rearward as structural weight is reduced and main propulsion system weight is increased. These issues are discussed in the paper.


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