A general talking to members of the Dept of defence, FAA and NASA pointed out recently that spacecraft launch capabilities require too much energy and are extremely costly but that the air force is continuing to look at more efficient space transportation concentrating on engine design and purchasing improvements.
He stated that it takes about 900 gigajoules of energy just to get into low Earth’s orbit altitude. That same amount of energy would take a car 17,000 miles or two thirds around the Earth. Energy needed to maintain auto rotation is even larger and then there is energy required to accelerate the booster and fuel mass.
Propulsion is said to be the most important of the technological breakthroughs needed to get better at space launches. Many of the engine designs currently in use are old and costly. No breakthroughs in rocket technology have been made for tens of years. The air force is working towards a design at the moment of a new upper stage engine that would be cheaper to manufacture. Also operating near red line limits on the engines is being investigated.
Cheaper boosters would also increase the efficiency at the moment. Most other parts are expected to be produced cheaper over the coming years. These types of cost savings will benefit not only the air force but other organisations such as the National reconnaissance office and NASA and commercial users. The general also stated that all the agencies would collaborate to reduce duplication of effort, increase standardisation and to eliminate outdated and unnecessary equipment. The most important thing with cooperation was stated to be space situational awareness.