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Selenian Boondocks

Long Range Stage Recovery

10 Jan 2016, 23:04 UTC
Long Range Stage Recovery
(200 words excerpt, click title or image to see full post)

Recovering stages from far down range is likely to be on the agenda for several companies in the next decade or so. RTLS for the boosters or a first stage is a different proposition than collecting something from Mach several and a couple of thousand miles down range or so. The more performance that can be obtained from a stage that is economically recovered and reused, the less performance required from the upper stage. The less upper stage performance required, the less it should cost if expendable, or the more margin is available for recovery if reusable. A dense fuel upper stage released at Mach 17 should require a mass ratio of about 2 to reach LEO.
I vaguely remember discussion of an air captured stage from years ago and have sketched it out as I remember it.
On the left is the stage vertically ascending with some small fins to help stabilize it along with normal thrust vectoring. An aerospike is a prerequisite for this technique. If not for the other use in recovery, the fins would be hard to justify economically. On the right is the stage reentering with the fins operating as wings just large enough to ...

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