SSTO Ready to Change the Game of Space Exploration?

Oliver Scott-Hansen, Staff Writer

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What is an SSTO?

SSTO stands for Single Stage To Orbit, and is a huge concept that all space agencies around the world have not been able to create. There are no SSTOs that we know of. No rocket or object has ever reached orbit on just one stage. The speed needed to get into and orbit as low as the International Space Station is 7,660 Meters Per Second and that’s just into orbit. What about getting back? In order for there to be an SSTO the mathematics would need to be perfect for everything. You would expect technology has gone too far in order for this to be a reality…

What do we think of SSTOs?

Believe it or not, when most people think or rockets, they think of an SSTO. Something that would lift off the launchpad and just get into space, maybe to the Moon, and come back again by just firing a few engines. That is an SSTO, and what these people have thought of is definitely far from being reality. The probable solution for making an SSTO is either an overpowered and over-engineered plane, or a rocket with multiple cores with multiple engines.

What will it take to fly an SSTO?

To fly an SSTO, the control team would need to calculate exactly how much fuel it would need. No matter if it is some sort of plane or rocket, it would need to be powerful, yet extremely fuel efficient. And that is an engine design that is also troubling multiple space programs worldwide. Just because an engine is big doesn’t mean it’s powerful. There could be an engine that is small, has super thrust, but uses a lot of fuel. There could be one that is big, has not enough thrust to get off the launchpad, but it is super fuel efficient. Imagine what these people have to come up with.

How close can we get to SSTOs?

The answer is simulators. Take Kerbal Space Program, a game where players manage their own space program in an entirely new solar system. Players have created SSTOs in Kerbal Space Program, however in the plain game, the planets are about 1/10th scale to the Real Solar System. There is a modification to make the new solar system our own, but there is probably no record of an SSTO in that. And this game is probably the most accurate to hit the gaming community ever. In real life, we have made DSTOs or Dual Stage To Orbits. Although games get as close as they can get, there are some things in them that aren’t physically possible to do in real life.

Are we even trying?

Yes, all space agencies are trying as hard as they can to make some type of SSTO. No matter where in the world, whether it’s China, Europe, the UK, Canada, India, Russia, or who knows where, all of them are trying to get the best mathematicians to find out how to make an SSTO a reality. The closest we are is a design by British company Reaction Engines Limited (REL), and they have brought the Skylon to the drawing board. This potential SSTO plane uses SABRE, a combined-cycle air breathing rocket propulsion system. It is not scheduled to fly soon, but in a few years. The engineers have to polish it up a bit. All in all, SSTOs are possible, but who will make it possible first?

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