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What do you do with a spaceplane?


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Well, it takes a lot of practice, as well as knowledge of the game. The major thing I use them for is just for fun, but I occasionally will put a satellite into space with one. In my opinion, space planes look good, but aren't as good as rockets.

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A space plane can land in one piece. This is good for when you are playing a career game as it means that you can recover (almost) all of your funds or if you have KCT you can put it into storage so you don't have to build it again. They're also cool. If your having troubles building space planes I suggest looking at the stock ones first and copying them. Then slowly change it a little bit each time you fly to suit your needs.

Edit: And don't use ions! They may look tempting with their high DV but the low TWR makes it almost impossible to circularize before you re-enter.

Edited by Benji13
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4 hours ago, phantom000 said:

I haven't had much luck with space planes, everyone i tried to design did not get far before it crashed. At the same time i am wondering what exactly a space plane can do that a rocket can't?

Spaceplanes are fully recoverable so the only cost of the launch is the fuel used. And spaceplanes use much less fuel to get a ton of payload to orbit than any (recoverable) rocket ever could since they can get to 1500+m/s speeds with efficient airbreathing engines.

This leads to spaceplanes being very significantly cheaper way to launch stuff to orbit than rockets. 

Also spaceplanes are cool and look awesome :D

But basically they are used as efficient cargo haulers to orbit.

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5 hours ago, phantom000 said:

I haven't had much luck with space planes, everyone i tried to design did not get far before it crashed. At the same time i am wondering what exactly a space plane can do that a rocket can't?

There's nothing that a spaceplane can do that a rocket can't. However, there are things that spaceplanes do more easily than rockets.

What spaceplanes are good at is fully-recoverable vehicles (i.e. reentry capable SSTOs). If you land everything back at KSC, the only expense is fuel. This makes things like orbital fuel delivery ridiculously cheap to achieve, which in turn breaks the economics of the career game wide open.

Keep your definitions in mind, though; spaceplane is not the same as SSTO. Spaceplane = winged spacegoing vehicle. SSTO = single stage to orbit. Most spaceplanes are SSTOs and vice-versa, but not always. The real-world Shuttle was a non-SSTO spaceplane; any rocket that reaches orbit without dropping stages is a non-spaceplane SSTO.

Once you've got the knack, you can pull tricks like this:

 

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I pretty much agree with what everyone is saying. SSTO space planes are a very efficient way to deliver cargo/vehicles to LKO. Some folks like Wanderfound, are ridiculously good and make space planes that can travel the entire system. However, I think they are much more at home making trips to LKO and back. It took me a long time to before i was able to start making successful SSTO planes. 

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If we're referring to SSTO fully recoverable space planes, the only difference is that you get the space plane back at the end of the mission. This does reduce funds costs. However, you will discover that saving funds costs you time, since you have to fly the plane back to the runway. Simple orbital missions will now take twice as long at a minimum versus disposable rockets.

So if the trade-off is worth it to you, then SSTO Space planes are worth doing. I always end up getting tired of constantly flying them back, personally.

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Spaceplanes can land and return from Mun/Minmus basically for free (fuel is cheap) and once you manage to build an ISRU spaceplane, spaceplanes allow for truly free travel everywhere, most notably Laythe.

But to answer your title: I leave them in my hangar until FAR is released.

Edited by theend3r
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I basically use spaceplanes for missions to LKO - like changing personal on an orbital station, or doing rescue cintracts. Sometimes I use them to bring satellites into a polar orbit but that's rarely done.

Their primary advantage is the ability to land at the KSC and get a 90-95% refund depending on the amount of stuff (including fuel) you left in orbit. Going to space and back for like 3k funds is on the cheap side... On the other hand,  you need to time your descend in order to land at the KSC and you need to know how your spaceplane aerobrakes in order to get a nice approach. That takes time.

Sending a rocket to orbit is more or less T Z Space DDD X and you're there. Flying a plane to orbit is more time consuming, however more efficient. Oh and if you consider coolness a reason...that's pro spaceplane then...

 

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Echoing the others above...

 Space planes are good for putting kerbals and supplies (fuel/ o2/ monoprop) in LKO and returning kerbals from LKO for cheap. Those are the only jobs I use them for.

Best,
-Slashy

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