Latest By
Category:


Armor
Artificial Intelligence
Biology
Clothing
Communication
Computers
Culture
Data Storage
Displays
Engineering
Entertainment
Food
Input Devices
Lifestyle
Living Space
Manufacturing
Material
Media
Medical
Miscellaneous
Robotics
Security
Space Tech
Spacecraft
Surveillance
Transportation
Travel
Vehicle
Virtual Person
Warfare
Weapon
Work

"It was my preferred entertainment when I was a kid, so when I set out to be a writer, it was perfectly natural that I should write the sort of stories that I used to enjoy reading."
- John Brunner

Shuttle Ship  
  A spacecraft that could take off from a planet, rendezvous with an object in orbit, and fly back to the surface like a glider.  

The Nautilus, a passenger spacecraft, was in orbit around Venus. What was the best way for a passenger like Don Harvey to get to the surface?

A shuttle ship up from the surface could leave any spot on Venus, rendezvous with the ship in orbit, then land on its port of departure or on any other point having expended a theoretical minimum of fuel. As soon as the Nautilus had parked, such shuttles began to swarm up to her. They were more airplane than spaceship, for, although each was sealed and pressurized to operate outside the atmosphere while making contact with orbiting spaceships, each was winged and was powered with ramjet atmosphere engines as well as with rocket jets. Like frogs, they were adapted to two media.

A shuttle would be launched to catapult from the surface, her ramjets would take hold and she would climb on her wings, reaching in the thin, cold heights of the upper stratosphere speeds in excess of three thousand miles an hour. There, as her ramjets failed for want of air, her rocket jets would take over and kick her forward to orbiting speed of around twelve thousand miles an hour and permit her to match in with a spaceship.

A nice maneuver! It required both precise mathematical calculation of times, orbits, fuel expenditure, and upper air weather, and piloting virtuosity beyond mathematical calculation - but it saved pennies.

From Between Planets, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1951
Additional resources -

And how could such a ship find its way safely back to a designated landing site on the surface of the planet? By using, as Heinlein points out, the energy it had already built up in gaining orbit:

Once the shuttle was loaded at the spaceship it was necessary only to nudge it with its rockets against the orbital direction whereupon the shuttle would drop into a lower orbit which would eventually intersect the atmosphere and let the pilot take a free ride back to the surface, glider fashion, killing his terrible speed by dipping ever lower into the thickening air. Here again the pilot must be an artist, for he must both kill his momentum and conserve it so that it would take him where he wanted to go.
The United States started designing the similar Space Shuttle starting in 1968, before the successful moon landings of the Apollo program. The successful launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981 is shown below.


(Space Shuttle Columbia)

Note that in Heinlein's "design" the shuttle ship uses a catapult to reach ramjet speed; rocket engines are used only in the last part of the launch. The actual Space Shuttle uses a large external fuel tank with solid fuel boosters to reach orbit.

See articles on the Space Shuttle, ramjets and finally a proposed catapult system, the Launch Ring Magnetic Launch System .

Thanks to Larry for pointing this one out, and supplying the references.

Comment/Join this discussion ( 0 ) | RSS/XML | Blog This |

Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Between Planets
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to Between Planets
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

Shuttle Ship-related news articles:
  - Shuttle Atlantis Landing Video, As Per Heinlein
  - SABRE Orbital Jet Engine Breakthrough
  - SKYLON Space Plane Gets Boost

Articles related to Spacecraft
SKYLON Space Plane Gets Boost
Europe's Cheops To Look For Habitable Planets
SpaceX Dragon First Private Craft To Dock With ISS
SpaceX Dragon To Land On Any Planet

Want to Contribute an Item? It's easy:
Get the name of the item, a quote, the book's name and the author's name, and Add it here.

<Previous
Next>

Google
  Web TechNovelgy.com   

 

 

Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!) is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for the Invention Category that interests you, the Glossary, the Invention Timeline, or see what's New.

 

 

 

 

More News

Physicists Build Repulsor / Tractor Beam
'Brandon swung mighty tractor beams upon the severed halves of the Jovian vessel...'

High Fidelity Produces More Expressive Avatars!
'They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other...'

Will You Upload Your Mind Anytime Soon?
And if so, how long will the copy last?

Students! NASA Wants To 3D Print Your Tool Design In Space!
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...'

Amazing ARES Augmented Reality Sandbox
'First he showed him where the input and output of his brand-new kingdom were, and how to program wars...'

'3D Light Sculpture' Projected Directly Onto Retina
'...projects directly on the retina of the eye…'

3D Printer Vending Machine Dispenses Dreams
'Nanofax AG offers a technology that digitally reproduces objects, physically, at a distance.'

Why Not Nurse Grandma With A Robot?
'She's made of a combination of springs, levers, acoustic instruments...'

Flock Of Minisats Will Image The Earth
'We... dropped roughly a thousand eyes on Beta Hydri IV.'

Robert Heinlein, Your Self-Driving Car Is Almost Ready!
'Mary Risling settled back for a little nap...'

More SF in the News

More Beyond Technovelgy

Home | Glossary | Invention Timeline | Category | New | Contact Us | FAQ | Advertise |
Technovelgy.com - where science meets fiction™

Copyright© Technovelgy LLC; all rights reserved.