Some of us wonder, can a plane fly in to space. Some of us think that we can while others think otherwise. Well, there are some issues or problems because of which a plane can’t fly in to space.
A plane flies because as it is propelled forward, the wings which are shaped to make the air flow faster over top of them rather than the bottom generates lift. As the plane goes faster, the wings create more lift and when the lift is greater than the weight of the plane it will climb to the air. As the plane fly higher and higher, the air becomes less and less dense.So the plane has to fly faster to create more lift until eventually it reaches an altitude where the engines seize to function correctly due to lack of oxygen or lack of air.
Just as we need air to breathe, airplane engines need oxygen to burn. We humans have a limit of 8000 metres or 26000 ft. above which the climate is called the death zone. This is where there is not enough oxygen to survive. The summit of Mount Everest is about 29000ft high and the air density there is about 33% of sea level. At 45000 ft or 12000 metres, which is the upper limit for most modern airliners , the air density is about 18% to that of sea level.
Well talking about planes to get into space, you need to reach what is called the “Escape Velocity“. This is where you are travelling faster than gravity is pulling you backward and that speed is 25,020 mph or 40,270 Km/h and to fly a normal airliner filled with passengers into space, that airplane need to reach escape velocity which is nearly impossible. This is why space vehicles are launched by rockets.
Normal Space shuttles (space planes) carried into space via rockets. Rockets acts like engines for space shuttles. Rockets differ from jet engines of normal airliners because they bring their own oxygen to burn fuel and not rely on atmospheric oxygen to burn fuel. This means they work equally in space as in the atmosphere.The problem with rockets is that they need to bring oxygen with them, which makes them very heavy.Space shuttle for example, the fuel tank and the two solid rocket boosters to hold the shuttle weight around 1,940 metric tonnes and that’s without the space shuttle.
Above discussed problem are some among many technical issues that hinders the dream of flying a normal airliner into space. One design that looks promising is “Skylon‘. Watch the following video to know more on skylon.
Well whatever may be the technical problems are, may be someday, we might be able to fly a normal airliner into space.