Horizontal Landing Option
There has been recent work on the possiblity of a horizontal landing
configuration. The first shot at a horizontal landing configuration was
rejected about four years ago because the rocket motors were at the
corners; that gave us four failure-critical engines where if any one of
them cut out we lost the spacecraft and crew.
This image shows a horizontal option that might work. Pink
tanks are hydrogen; blue ones are oxygen. The tanks are really close to
scale in this depiction, whereas the tanks in the picture you sent were
purely notional. It eliminates the whole question of how we do that
leveling mechanism. Does that inspire any design thoughts? We'd have to
get creative with launch packaging and assembly in earth orbit, but it
might be an improvement.
Originally, the idea of saving weight by using one of the descent
engines for ascent drove the design to that leveling contraption. When we
learned we could use cryogenic fuel for landing, but still wanted
hypergolics for ascent, that obviated the option to reuse one of the
landing engines. So we're back to the drawing board.
Don't be disappointed if we keep the vertical landing with its extra
mechanisms around for quite a while, though. That contraption has quite a
bit of market appeal, as well as being a viable option.
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