Exploración espacial, costo-beneficio

Exploración espacial, costo-beneficio

Desde el inicio de la era espacial la reutilización de los elementos de un vehículo espacial se vio como una necesidad para reducir el enorme coste de las misiones. 

Una de las formas más populares fue la del aterrizaje vertical (técnica que tuvo que esperar a SpaceX —Space Exploration Technologies Corporation—, para volverse de uso cotidiano).

Pero en los 50 y 60 se pensaba a lo grande. En esos años aparecieron los primeros proyectos de sistemas de lanzamiento orbital reutilizables de aterrizaje vertical, siendo uno de los más famosos el proyecto ROMBUS (Reusable Orbital Module Booster and Utility Shuttle), y algunas de sus variantes llamadas Ithacus, Hyperion o Pegasus.

Todos ellos tenían en común el empleo de tanques de combustible externos para reducir las exigencias del sistema y sus potenciales aplicaciones militares (sin ir más lejos, Ithacus debía servir como un transporte de tropas suborbital). 

La mayoría usaban motores dispuestos en círculo alrededor de un cono central, un concepto conocido como aerospike que permite sacar el máximo rendimiento de los motores a cualquier altura. 

Estos vehículos prometían colocar entre 300 a 550 toneladas en órbita baja, aunque algunas versiones alcanzarían en teoría ¡900 toneladas! 

Lastimosamente ninguno de estos planes salió adelante pues las dificultades eran (y lo siguen siendo) sencillamente abrumadoras. 

¿Podrá SpaceX, con su cohete gigante BFR triunfar donde otros fallaron? 

Esperemos que si.

Imagen artística de la sonda Cassini llegando a Saturno. NASA
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