14 thoughts on “Rockets Versus Airplanes”

    1. At some point, Congress would mandate a fuel tax on point-to-point rocket travel. It came up at least twice during my 10 years at FAA/AST, and that was for any rocket-powered flight. For aviation, fuel taxes support the Airport Trust Fund. For space, it was a way for Congress to pay for AST (whose $10 million budget was the last bit threatening to collapse the US economy). AST always managed to beat back those attempts, knowing how much damage it would do to an emerging industry. But it won’t prevail forever.

      Assuming the tax would be the same as for Jet-A, some 21.9 cents per gallon IIRC, then it would have a minimal effect on flight cost – around $80,000. But I suspect that Congress would want to put the whole cost of government “oversight” of launch into the fuel tax, and that would mean including the cost of AST, JSPOC, FCC, inter-agency payload review, etc, etc, ad nauseum. The bill might be considerably higher.

      While I appreciate the effort Brian put in (and it’s not a terrible job, though his aircraft ops costs are low-ball), the main obstacle to rocket point-to-point remains 14 CFR Parts 400-460. As long as rocket flight is regulated in the manner of shooting on a weapon test range, it can never become commercially viable as a routine matter of transportation. I’ve spent 30 years just trying (unsuccessfully) to show how the very language we use is self-defeating. Do you board a commercial airliner to go on a “mission”? Is the airport the beginning of a “range”? I could go on, but have in the past to no avail.

      Until we treat rockets as transportation, like any other, they will never become such.

      1. Michael how do the CFR’s and FAR’s apply to spacecraft of foreign registry?

        There was, after all, a time when Zenit (Russian-built) launchers were being launched by Sea Launch out of Long Beach, CA. albeit from the Equatorial Regions of the Pacific Ocean far outside US waters.

        But what if a foreign enterprise was buying Starship/Super-Heavies for a cargo business? How do US regulations apply?

        1. Sea Launch was a U.S. entity, and so was licensed by FAA/AST. The same is true of Rocket Labs. I haven’t had any experience directly with a foreign payload review, but the State Department handles them when they come in. It doesn’t involve a lot, just making sure that there aren’t any ultra-hazardous items on board (or if there are, that they are secured).

          1. How did the FAA handle the licensing process of the Zenit rocket? How was Zenit not considered a violation of ITAR regulations?

      1. If you only count westward travel, and go by departure and arrival times, so that a 787 nonstop from Amsterdam to LA takes about 3 hours, you’ll see they’re really not in the air very long!

        Anyway, I just don’t see suborbital cargo flights as being generally practical from a noise, hazard standpoint. With a high launch rate, the no-go zones around the pad and downrange (and up-range for landing) would have to become permanent. NIMBY would rule out wide adoption.

        1. Suborbital will go from ocean to ocean.
          Hyperloop from ocean to land.

          And pipelauncher can reduce the sub-orbital delta-v.
          Or pipelauncher is mostly about reducing gravity loss-
          which more significant factor with suborbital delta-v.

          1. What do you bet there would be lawsuits over ocean launches arguing that the loud roar interferes with whale communications?

          2. Pipelauncher can allow rocket blast off to fairly high above the surface of ocean. So like 50 meter higher is sort of needed minimum and say 200 meter might highest that one could do. Plus unlikely normal blastoffs, you don’t need full thrust.
            So could have 25% power at 50 meters above surface of water, and then 50 to 100% when 100 meters above surface.

            But one try it out and improve as you go along, as with anything.
            The simple design is a large diameter and tall pipe, with one capped. You sink it, so capped end near top of surface and floating vertical {and pipe mostly with water in it] and then add liquid air to add a lot air inside pipe- and it goes up vertically. And lift a lot of mass.
            10 meter diameter, has area of 5 x 5 x pi = 78.53975 square meter. 1 meter high of air is 78.53975 cubic meter
            or displacement of 78.53975 tons. 10 meter of air below waterline is 785.3975 tons and air pressure of 14.7 psig.
            Doing something like Starship is more complicated and need larger diameter.
            A pipelauncher might cheaper and better for the New Glenn rocket. Or testing with massive starship doesn’t seem very reasonable- but it could be done, and I use what call a staged pipelauncher which reduces amount air needed. Or tens of tons liquid air is roughly what is needed.
            And liquid air turns to gas if pour it into water. And warmer water, the warmer the air.

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