Combining several technologies that have been developed over the past few years and that have been disscussed on this board;
A 100 mile long rigid airship at an altitude of 100,000 ft. carrying a maglev launch tube.
Advantages over a land based maglev launcher are that air pressure and resistance on the payload and on the stucture is greatly reduced even over a launcher built up the side of Mt. Everest at 40,000 ft., the orientation of the airship can be changed to put the payload into any orbital inclination and the incline of launch can be adjusted somewhat for greater flexibility in launch angle, because of the above considerations and more, the cost of such a mechanism is much reduced.
Machinery for such a construction is currently well developed for maglev technology by several companies (maglev rail technology is not competitive in capital and maintanance costs with current rail technology) and is well under construction by the Zeppelin corporation (yes it is still in business) for the airship.
The program requires a five stage launch technique as follows;
Stage 1 requires conventional jet aircraft to lift cargo to;
Stage 2 a lighter than air aircraft carrier of at least 2 miles in length floating at an altitude of between 20,000 and 30,000 ft. The reason for stage 2 is to keep the fragile high lift airships of stage 2 and;
Stage 3 out of the destructive turbulence of the lower aptnosphere, Stage 3 airships lift the cargo to;
Stage 4 the maglev launch airship where the cargo is loaded onto;
Stage 5 the spacecraft.
Concept test hardware is currently available and can be deployed within 5 months and tested to propel a payload of 10 lbs. to a distance of 10,000 miles for a cost of less than $1,000,000. To keep this post as short as possible I eliminated supporting documentation and links*. Total cost of the full sized structure I have (based on supporting documentation) calculated to be $10,000,000,000. and construction time to be 8-12 years.
This could be the "Iron Horse" to space.
What do you think?
*Yahoo search maglev and Zeppelin.