Kármán

The Concept

The Kármán is an ‘orbital class’ business jet aircraft concept capable of leaving the atmosphere to visit space stations and hotels in low-earth orbit.

Origin of the Idea

A few months ago, we published an orbital space plane concept with the goal of gathering comments to improve the idea through a series of open discussions. We got interesting feedback from Richard Dalbello at Virgin Galactic and Olivier Péraldi, one of our regular collaborators. Their comments helped us create a new simpler and bolder vision for this new aircraft.

How it Works

The Kármán’s fuselage comprises a front section consisting mainly of an electable passenger cabin and a rear section containing four rockets engines. The power output and wing surface of the Karman would allow it to take off from existing long airport runways and eliminate the need to finance, design, and build new, complicated, and expensive infrastructure to launch this new breed of orbital business aircraft.

On takeoff, the Kármán’s flight computer would light its four modular rocket engines to generate sufficient thrust to accelerate, take off, and climb high up in the atmosphere. If the destination is space, the aircraft would need to reach escape velocity while keeping its passengers comfortable despite the strong acceleration.

The aircraft would also need to be equipped with manoeuvring thrusters, life support systems, and a strong heat shield to reenter the atmosphere. These functionality and performance specs could be optional if the buyer decided to limit its flight to within the atmosphere, which would also allow more payload and a reduced cost.

To fly across the globe, the Kármán would perform parabolic flights, skirting the Kármán line located at an altitude of 100km (hence the name) and then descend toward its destination. The speed on these flights could be much slower than the 40,000km/h needed to escape into space. In case of emergency (at lower speeds) the Kármán could eject its passenger cabin, which would be equipped with a parachute.

Potential Market

The Kármán would be used by business and world leaders to reach space stations in low Earth orbit directly from existing airports. The atmospheric version could be designed to transport people and equipment quickly from one side of the globe to the other.

Special Thanks

I would like to thank Olivier Peraldi for collaborating with me on this concept. I would specifically like to thank Martin Rojtenberg, who created all the images of the Kármán concept. Martin lives near Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied design at the University of Buenos Aires and now works as an independent industrial designer.