The self-declared daredevil and Flat Earther “Mad” Mike Hughes is getting ready for one more launch in his do-it-yourself, steam-powered rocket within the Californian desert. His last aim is to succeed in the sting of area, however how possible is he to succeed and see that the Earth is definitely spherical?
Hughes’ first rocket launch was in 2014, and since then he has taken off a number of instances in his do-it-yourself machines—reaching an altitude of 572 metres (1,800 toes) at most. His adventures have led to plenty of accidents, but he’s nonetheless decided to maintain going. His newest try was scheduled for August 11, however was as soon as once more aborted after a fault with the rocket was found. He will retry on August 17.
Hughes believes that the Earth is flat and that he can show that together with his rocket travels (he has been given cash by the Flat Earth Society.) He is keen to exit and actually threat his life to show what he believes.
But whether or not he’ll get wherever is a unique matter. So let’s check out his rocket to see what potential pitfalls or successes he might have.
The arithmetic behind the velocity a rocket launch can obtain was developed within the 1890s by a Russian schoolteacher referred to as Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. His equation calculates a velocity or velocity change primarily based on how a lot of the rocket’s whole mass is gas—the extra gas you may have the sooner you’ll be able to go—and how briskly it might probably burn this gas. In truth, the equation continues to be used to at the present time.
Orbital flight is a combination of altitude (vertical top) and horizontal velocity. To attain an orbit across the Earth you want two issues. The first is to be touring quick sufficient horizontally that you simply attain the curvature of the Earth earlier than gravity pulls you to the bottom. You additionally need as little ambiance as attainable, in any other case the large drag power from the air will each cut back your velocity and warmth your object up.
In the 1950s, the aerospace engineer Theodore Von Karman determined that the purpose the place the ambiance thins a lot that standard aeronautical flight (requiring ambiance) is not possible is at 100 kilometres up (62 miles). He dubbed this line, the sting of area, the Karman line. And to orbit at this top would require a horizontal velocity of 7.8 kilometres per second, which is about 17,500 miles per hour.
To attain these speeds, you must use very particular fuels and engine shapes, counting on the combustion of solids or liquids. As the gas is heated and turned to fuel it takes up a bigger quantity, and as such is pushed out the again of the engine, producing thrust. The extra fuel you’ll be able to produce at greater temperatures, the sooner your rocket goes.
Hughes intends to make use of water because the gas itself. The drawback with water is that it doesn’t boil shortly—it has a excessive particular warmth capability. This means it primarily takes an excessive amount of vitality to show it into steam shortly sufficient to have the ability to generate a excessive thrust.
While we do not know the particular dimensions for Hughes’ rocket, we are able to use his description of “95 to 100 gallons of water (360-379 litres), superheated”, “leaving the rocket at the speed of sound” and weighing “around 1,800 pounds” to calculate his potential most altitude utilizing Tsiolkovsky’s rocket equation.
This requires us to know preliminary velocity (which is 330 metres per second), preliminary mass (which is 816 kilograms) and a last mass as all of the water and steam are gone (that is 437 kilograms). The equation then provides a velocity change of 206 metres per second. This means the utmost top he can attain is simply over two kilometres (1.2 miles), assuming he launches straight up (that is primarily based on fundamental equations of movement, ignoring air resistance).
This is a really respectable top to succeed in on a do-it-yourself engine. But Mount Whitney, which is near Hughes’ launch web site in California, has a peak of just about 4.5 kilometres (2.8 miles). Neither altitude is wherever near the sting of area. It will not be even excessive sufficient to see the curvature of the Earth, which requires a minimal top of about 10 kilometres (6.2 miles).
Despite this, Hughes has acknowledged he needs funding to allow him to succeed in the Karman line in his subsequent flight. Reversing our calculations, we are able to estimate that he would wish a minimal velocity change of 1.4 kilometres per second (0.9 miles per second) to try this, and this might require his rocket to carry at the very least 29,000 litres of water (7,500 U.S. gallons).
This isn’t any simple feat as it will require a gas tank with a quantity of 30 cubic metres, which is roughly the carrying capability of two lengthy wheel base vans. The elevated dimension of the gas tank and supporting construction would then enhance the ultimate weight, which in flip would require much more gas. The engineering required to comprise the interior strain of this water and switch it immediately into steam could also be very troublesome.
While Hughes’ present launch try might properly succeed, the probabilities of a rocket with a 30 cubic metre gas tank stuffed with water taking off is near not possible. At least he would keep away from the disaster of the gas exploding on the launch pad, which is a priority for extra severe rocket launches. Commercial ventures such the Falcon rockets, and Blue Origin have put some huge cash into analysis and if they might use one thing as low-cost as water to launch then they’d accomplish that.
Ultimately, Hughes is not going to make it wherever close to excessive sufficient to see the curvature of the Earth, however I believe the adrenaline rush will greater than make up for it. Personally, I want him all the perfect for his subsequent flight. I could not agree together with his beliefs, his politics or his mistrust of science, however I do applaud his spirit and perspective.
Ian Whittaker is a Lecturer in Physics at Nottingham Trent University, U.Ok.
Views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal.