Space

Radian One unveils plans for single-stage to orbit spaceplane

Radian One unveils plans for s...
Artist's concept of the Radian One spaceplane
Artist's concept of the Radian One spaceplane
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Artist's concept of the Radian One spaceplane
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Artist's concept of the Radian One spaceplane
Radian One is designed for horizontal lift off and landing
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Radian One is designed for horizontal lift off and landing
Radian One in orbit
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Radian One in orbit
Radian One lifting off by rocket sled
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Radian One lifting off by rocket sled
Radian One is designed to be able to land at conventional airports
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Radian One is designed to be able to land at conventional airports
Radian One returning to Earth
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Radian One returning to Earth
Radian One is powered by three rocket engines
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Radian One is powered by three rocket engines
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A new company has entered the commercial space race. Startup Radian Aerospace has emerged from stealth to announce it has secured US$27.5 million in seed funding to develop a single-stage to orbit (SSTO) spaceplane called Radian One, which is designed to lift and land horizontally.

The commercial space field has been growing steadily in recent years, with contractors taking over ferrying crews to the International Space Station, launching huge constellations of satellites into orbit, and even sending private missions and tourists into space. In addition, there are plans to replace the ISS with private space stations and proposals to send private missions to the Moon and Mars.

These private ventures tend to fall into two categories for getting into space. One is to launch payloads atop conventional staged rockets. The second is to use boosters dropped from high-altitude aircraft to deliver small payloads to low-Earth orbit.

Radian Aerospace says that it plans to break this mold by developing a delta-winged spaceplane about the size of a small commercial jet air transport that will launch horizontally using a rocket-powered sled to allow the craft to conserve as much fuel as possible. Once aloft, three rocket engines put the spacecraft into orbit under a low-g ascent, for crewed missions of up to five days, before landing on any 10,000-ft (3,000-m) runway.

Radian One lifting off by rocket sled
Radian One lifting off by rocket sled

The company claims that the Radian One can then be refurbished within 48 hours for a return to space. Technical details of the craft have not been released, but there is a certain logic to building a launch vehicle that looks like something out of the 1951 science fiction thriller When Worlds Collide, which also featured a winged spaceship boosted by a rocket sled.

"Wings offer capabilities and mission types that are simply not possible with traditional vertical takeoff rockets," said Livingston Holder, Radian's co-founder, CTO and former head of the Future Space Transportation and X-33 program at Boeing. "What we are doing is hard, but it's no longer impossible thanks to significant advancements in materials science, miniaturization, and manufacturing technologies."

Radian One is designed to be able to land at conventional airports
Radian One is designed to be able to land at conventional airports

Radian Aerospace says that it has been operating in stealth mode while it secured seed funding from Fine Structure Ventures, with EXOR, The Venture Collective, Helios Capital, SpaceFund, Gaingels, The Private Shares Fund, Explorer 1 Fund, and Type One Ventures also chipping in.

The company says that it is not pursuing the tourist trade, but will focus on research, in-space manufacturing, terrestrial observation, and rapid global delivery to Earth destinations. As part of this Radian has secured launch service agreements with US and overseas governments as well as commercial space projects.

Source: Radian Aerospace

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12 comments
12 comments
Chris__
This looks cool - but if they want anyone to take them seriously, there will need to be some explanation as to why *this* spaceplane will work where all the countless others that came before did not...
dan
ok, first stage = rocket sledge for the first 3'000 m... if this makes THE difference??? Curious about more data!
paul314
Assuming their structure and payload (including pilots) can handle it, that rocket sled could do 5-10g (much like aircraft-carrier catapults in basic theory) for about 7-10 seconds to go 3000m. That would be mach 1.5-2+ before takeoff. Which would simplify the airbreathing part because the onboard engines would always be working in a supersonic regime. Still could be entirely renderware, but at least they've thought about one part of the puzzle.
michael_dowling
The rocket sledge will be a stumbling block. You would need a sledge at all the airports this thing will take off from.
ScottBaker
Will it be able to dock at the ISS or other future space stations? Otherwise, it seems more like a billionaire space tourist plane, and we already have 1 or 2 of those.
Jerome Morley Larson Sr eAIA
Could be magnetic sledge at all airports and used to hurtle all planes into the air with huge fuel savings — also low earth orbit makes access to any place on earth in a few hours flight time — also could be carried upon a 747 size aircraft (like the space shuttle) and launched when it reached 40000 feet) — the plane goes a few thousand miles and the spacecraft goes fifteen thousand miles and both craft land at the same time.
Bob Stuart
While the first stage sled is on the ground, why use a rocket instead of pushing on the stationary ground? Rockets start off at 0% efficiency, and this one won't hit 20% max. Also, if you'd just use a vertical tether between multiple aircraft, hooked up as in a refueling operation, you could pick up heavy upper stages from a fast truck.
joe46
if they had kept developing the space shuttle, it could of turned into something like this ages ago
EH
They've got about 0.2% of the funding they'll need. Many low-end VCs and manager-types will think the team is impressive, though I'm quite sure they don't have the brains needed to pull this off, and the deadwood executives they've recruited will actively prevent anybody smart enough from having anything to do with the project.
Spud Murphy
Wow, why is everyone reading this wrong? Firstly, it's sled, not sledge. Secondly, the sled has nothing to do with 3000m, that's the length of the landing runway, nowhere does it say how long the sled run is. The sled gets the aircraft rapidly up to launch speed, much like as is done on an aircraft carrier. This saves the fuel that is used to get an aircraft in the air, which is the most inefficient part of a flight.

I can see this working if they can get it to fly high enough before the rockets kick in fully to get it to orbit. An SR71 could fly to 90,000ft (27.4km), so that's a good part of the way towards orbit already, although space is considered 100km+ (or 80km+ if you're NAASA for some reason). With the right design and fuel, I would see this working, maybe they need to talk to Elon...
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