Mission Profile for a Buoyant Spacecraft

For the purposes of analyzing the characteristics of buoyant spacecraft, we will develop a conceptual mission profile for a lighter-than-air vehicle designed to launch 10,000 kg of payload to low Earth orbit.  It will dock with a space station or release satellites and then return to Earth. This payload mass was chosen as a representative value for a medium lift launch vehicle capable of transporting crew and cargo to the International Space Station. Consequently the target orbit is at an altitude between 410km and 420km, included to 51.65 degrees, and an average velocity of 7.66 km/s. We assume the buoyant…

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Could Buoyant Spacecraft replace rockets for ascent to orbit?

The fundamental kinematic characteristic of orbiting spacecraft is high-velocity ballistic trajectory, which can only be achieved at very high altitude where drag forces drop to near zero. Thus, the problem of launch to orbit can be decomposed into two separate issues: altitude and velocity. Rockets solve this problem all at once, using reaction force to accelerate very rapidly to high-altitude ballistic flight. Rockets must accelerate at high levels compared to gravity. Such rapid acceleration requires the rapid release of enormous amounts of energy, which is inherently dangerous. In addition, rockets are highly complex vehicles, prone to failure, and expensive to…

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