Pickup Truck or Rocket?
January 20, 2011 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Trying to decide between a Ram heavy-duty pickup truck (gross combined weight rating of 24,500 pounds) and a Delta IV Heavy rocket (maximum payload 28,650 pounds)? This article and infographic will help.

If you're worried about carbon emissions, you'll go with the rocket.
posted by alms (74 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
My takeaway from this is that on the one hand, the Ram is very difficult to drive to orbit, but on the other, the Delta IV would be marginally more difficult to parallel park.

I'm a little surprised that the pickup wins the 0-60 mph decisively, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed it did so poorly in the 0-700 and 0-17,500 mph categories.
posted by mhoye at 8:03 PM on January 20, 2011 [15 favorites]


The emissions directly expelled by the Delta rocket may be nothing but water vapor, but I'll bet a lot of pollution is generated isolating all of that liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen fuel.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:04 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finding parking space for the Delta IV at Walmart would suck.
posted by Skygazer at 8:04 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


...the largest rocket ever launched from the West Coast of the U.S. on Thursday afternoon, carrying a classified spy satellite."

What a funny way of spelling "weather balloon."
posted by griphus at 8:05 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or what MHoye said.

Dang, you can't sneeze around here without some joker stealing your line..
posted by Skygazer at 8:07 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


$55,000 for a pickup truck? Are people insane?
posted by ChrisHartley at 8:09 PM on January 20, 2011 [17 favorites]


Finding parking space for the Delta IV at Walmart would suck.

Nope. Throw that baby into drive, and the cars in the lot just seem to melt away.
posted by eriko at 8:10 PM on January 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


DO IT SEND THAT DODGE INTO THE SUN
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:16 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


Delta IV's don't automatically come with a Palin 2012 bumper sticker.



Win NASA.
posted by I love you more when I eat paint chips at 8:18 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, Chrysler products just look so assy.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:24 PM on January 20, 2011


I'm a little surprised that the pickup wins the 0-60 mph decisively, but I have to say I'm a little disappointed it did so poorly in the 0-700 and 0-17,500 mph categories.

Well, you have to compare the MPG ratings and remember that the pickup is an economy vehicle...
posted by jcreigh at 8:28 PM on January 20, 2011


it's all good 'til you get the insurance bill...
posted by HuronBob at 8:28 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


"So, decided to strap a Atlas rocket on the Dodge and those G forces not enough to break orbit....call Virgin, because we cant limit liabilty in orbit."
posted by clavdivs at 8:33 PM on January 20, 2011


$55,000 for a pickup truck? Are people insane?

My friend, have you ever been to the South? In the little towns where there's nothing to do but "drive the strip" on Friday nights, which usually is bookended by a Wal-Mart and a Sonic/McDonalds, you want to be driving one of these.
posted by notion at 8:52 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


You'd better believe if you could slap a Dodge badge onto Delta rocket people in Alberta would drive it.
posted by mazola at 8:58 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


"if you could slap a Dodge badge onto Delta rocket people in Alberta would drive it.".... well, once anyway... but it would be a hell of a ride!
posted by HuronBob at 9:03 PM on January 20, 2011


I thought that this was stupid and unfunny when I first saw it earlier today. Glad nobody here is taking it remotely seriously. You'd be amazed ...
posted by intermod at 9:04 PM on January 20, 2011


I thought that this was stupid and unfunny when I first saw it earlier today...

So you came back for more!
posted by mazola at 9:07 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


11 mpg?
posted by sneebler at 9:20 PM on January 20, 2011


I hope to Christ I'm not the only one who was fooled by the headline, thought this was AskMe, and almost flagged the first couple comments as "noise".


....

Just me? Right. Cool article, though.
posted by auto-correct at 9:24 PM on January 20, 2011


As a non-flippant aside, I find it interesting that, as huge and powerful as that Delta rocket is, it can only lift a little more than that pickup trick into orbit.

It's not that orbit is a long way away -- it's only 250ish miles, even if it is straight up. If you could drop a magic grappling hook and just haul the truck up to orbit, the amount of energy required wouldn't be that extreme.

The problem is the fuel. Almost all of the fuel in a rocket is used to lift the rest of the fuel into the right spot to be used. To add a pound of payload, you have to add enough fuel to push it the last foot into its orbital slot, and then the fuel to lift that fuel up to 1 foot short of orbit, and the fuel to lift all the rest 2 feet short of orbit, and so on. These numbers get very large, very quickly. Sitting on the ground, something like 98% of the total mass of the rocket is propellant.

That, in turn, necessitates those gigantic engines, to develop enough thrust to lift all the fuel. That's why they use multiple stages, or the detachable boosters and tank on the Shuttle. Midflight, they can shed a bunch of mass, and then keep lifting a much smaller craft from a much higher altitude.

They've experimented with ways to launch rockets from aircraft, to get past the super-expensive low altitudes, but I don't think they've ever gotten anything reliable enough to deploy.

tl;dr version: that first foot will cost you an arm and a leg.
posted by Malor at 9:42 PM on January 20, 2011 [14 favorites]


$55,000 for a pickup truck? Are people insane?

Ford Ranger 4 cylinder : $55,000 Ram HD diesel :: Corolla : Corvette

It's a work truck. Yes, you can buy a giant heavy duty pickup to make Costco runs. This is America; the only thing that's gonna stop you is your credit rating. But if you really need to move large things around, it's going to do things a basic truck can't do.
posted by ninjew at 10:06 PM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


Obligatory YT of launch (2004)
posted by marvin at 10:08 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not that orbit is a long way away -- it's only 250ish miles, even if it is straight up

The article says that the rocket can put that trruck into geosynchronous orbit - 22,300 miles up. To the leo you describe - 2 trucks!
posted by spasm at 10:21 PM on January 20, 2011


As a non-flippant aside, I find it interesting that, as huge and powerful as that Delta rocket is, it can only lift a little more than that pickup trick into orbit.

Actually, I think the weights specified are their load capacities, not their weights. Unless the model in the video has some major differences from a Ram 3500 (about 6 tons per), the rocket would comfortably be able to take 2 Rams into orbit.
posted by LionIndex at 10:25 PM on January 20, 2011


Basically, the rocket can take the truck and whatever the truck can hold/tow.
posted by LionIndex at 10:27 PM on January 20, 2011


They've experimented with ways to launch rockets from aircraft, to get past the super-expensive low altitudes, but I don't think they've ever gotten anything reliable enough to deploy.

Allow me to direct your gaze to Orbital's Pegasus rocket, with 40 successful launches since 1996 from under the belly of an L-1011.

That being said, the Pegasus has a fairly small payload capability, both in size and weight.
posted by chimaera at 10:30 PM on January 20, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, looks like that should be 40 successful launches since 1990, with no launch failures since 1996.
posted by chimaera at 10:33 PM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


The Rocket can do 50k pounds into LEO and the truck weighs 8,000 pounds, so it should be able to lift 6 trucks. It could lift two trucks plus their payloads

But yeah, basically with a rocket 95% of what you're lifting is going to be fuel for the rest of the trip. The rockets get lighter and lighter as they go up.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 PM on January 20, 2011


Not to mention the weird hybrid vehicles Scaled Composites comes up with.
posted by hattifattener at 10:40 PM on January 20, 2011


Until the end, when it's just the truck(s).
posted by wierdo at 10:41 PM on January 20, 2011


It's not that orbit is a long way away -- it's only 250ish miles, even if it is straight up

Lift something 250 miles up and drop it, and it'll just fall straight back down to earth again. To get into orbit, you don't just need to be high, you also need to be travelling so fast laterally that before you hit the ground you'll have overshot the world - perpetually falling over the edge of the world (so to speak) rather than straight back down onto it.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:44 PM on January 20, 2011 [7 favorites]


mazola writes "You'd better believe if you could slap a Dodge badge onto Delta rocket people in Alberta would drive it."

I think I may have solved our Harper problem.
posted by Mitheral at 11:06 PM on January 20, 2011


The mileage figure for the rocket is such a crock. First, it's only the downrange mileage of the first stage, rather than the actual distance travelled, and second, if you measured the mileage in terms of orbits of the final stage / payload in geostationary orbit, then it's better than a Prius and you can drive that sucker to work in the diamond lane!
posted by zippy at 11:20 PM on January 20, 2011 [4 favorites]


In the little towns where there's nothing to do but "drive the strip" on Friday nights, which usually is bookended by a Wal-Mart and a Sonic/McDonalds, you want to be driving one of these.

For that kind of money, maybe you could just move out of that shitty little town.
posted by pracowity at 12:26 AM on January 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


As a non-flippant aside, I find it interesting that, as huge and powerful as that Delta rocket is, it can only lift a little more than that pickup trick into orbit
It's not that orbit is a long way away -- it's only 250ish miles, even if it is straight up.


As has been pointed out: BIG difference between LEO and GTO...from geostationary it's pretty much just a gentle nudge to get to get fully quit of this marble.
For example, a (somewhat) smaller rocket, the Titan/Centaur was able to launch ~12,000 lbs...to Saturn.

That being said, the Delta IV Heavy is obviously a vastly inferior vehicle in that it has no place to hang a pair of truck nuts.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:50 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


That being said, the Delta IV Heavy is obviously a vastly inferior vehicle in that it has no place to hang a pair of truck nuts.

Have you SEEN it?! It has three nuts, each packing 150,000 gallons of juice.

Anything that that thing rogers is going to be sore in the morning.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:12 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still can't decide. Can somebody make me a flow chart?
posted by charles kaapjes at 1:37 AM on January 21, 2011


My friend, have you ever been to the South? In the little towns where there's nothing to do but "drive the strip" on Friday nights, which usually is bookended by a Wal-Mart and a Sonic/McDonalds,

At "drive the strip" (by which you mean "scoop the loop") I thought you had just heard about this. At "WalMart" I thought you were just playing on stereotypes. But at "Sonic" I knew you as a brother.
posted by DU at 1:49 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]



+------------------------------+
| Do you need to haul drywall? |----<NO>
+------------------------------+......|
............|.........................|
..........<YES>.......................|
............|.........................|
+-----------------+...................|
| To outer space? |-------------<YES>.|
+-----------------+...............|...|
........|.........................|...|
.......<NO>.......................|...|
........|.........................|...|
+--------------------+............|...|
| Are you interested |............|...|
| in being AWESOME?  |-------<YES>|...|
+--------------------+.........|..|...|
........|......................|..|...|
.......<NO>....................|..|...|
........|......................|..|...|
...+-----------+.............+-------------+
...| The Dodge |.............| The ROCKET! |
...+-----------+.............+-------------+

P.S. dOeS aNyOnE kNoW how to UsE K-RAD ANSI CODEZ on this BBS?

posted by arto at 2:06 AM on January 21, 2011 [53 favorites]


I'm a little surprised that the pickup wins the 0-60 mph decisively...

Yeah. My complaint with the DeltaIV Heavy has always been that it's a dog off the line. The bottom end is simply geared too low. You just have to concede that the other guy is going to smoke you out of the box, and you'll toast him at the top end.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:39 AM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


You just have to concede that the other guy is going to smoke you out of the box, and you'll toast him at the top end.

I know this is satire, but it's so spot-on I have to reply. Why does it matter if you get "smoked out of the box" if you are going to win at the end?

It reminds me of the claimed difference between chess and go. The first is a battle that you have to win absolutely. The second is a war consisting of many battles where at the end you have to have won more on average. (It's actually more subtle than that--it's a series of battles and battles within battles where sometimes you want to deliberately lose on one level to win on another level.)
posted by DU at 2:52 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


tl;dr version: that first foot will cost you an arm and a leg.

Even with the Max Toe package?
posted by hal9k at 2:54 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Finding parking space for the Delta IV at Walmart would suck.

Paste a Winnebago badge on it, and you're good to park there all night.


...you want to be driving one of these.

I don't even want to be seeing one of those.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:07 AM on January 21, 2011


Why does it matter if you get "smoked out of the box" if you are going to win at the end?

first one to the speed limit gets a ticket for jack rabbit starts. The one who gets nailed for 17,435 over the speed limit gets their license taken away for the next 4 lifetimes
posted by Redhush at 4:09 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]



So if we build a seriously tall building on a really high mountain and erect one of these on the top floor.......
posted by notreally at 4:30 AM on January 21, 2011


A nice picture of the launch yesterday
posted by Flashman at 4:38 AM on January 21, 2011


I watched a live webcast of the launch yesterday of NROL-49. The DIV's manufacturer streams it on their website. There are now pictures here. Next DIV-H goes up second week of March.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 4:45 AM on January 21, 2011


$55,000 for a pickup truck? Are people insane?

It's my impression that the really heavy-duty trucks like this one generally aren't bought by regular people as much as by small business owners and construction workers. Take a look at this. Ford sold about 530,000 pickups in 2010, but 313,000 were F-150s and only something like 193,000 super duties and 20,000 F-450/F-550 chassis cabs. Chevy sold four times as many Silverado 1500s as Silverado HDs, and Dodge sold almost twice as many Ram 1500s as Ram HDs.

So yeah, people may be buying pickups they don't need, but most of them are at least buying light-duty or smaller ones.
posted by valkyryn at 4:48 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


At least Delta IV Heavy owners actually own it for work, and drive it with payload most of the time.
posted by anthill at 5:07 AM on January 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


All I have is one question: Do they sell rocket nuts?
posted by tommasz at 5:18 AM on January 21, 2011


the largest rocket ever launched from the West Coast of the U.S. on Thursday afternoon, carrying a classified spy satellite."

What a funny way of spelling "weather balloon."


Hmm, I wonder what made them pick Thursday?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:22 AM on January 21, 2011


The one who gets nailed for 17,435 over the speed limit gets their license taken away for the next 4 lifetimes

Honestly, officer, the light appeared green!
posted by backseatpilot at 5:23 AM on January 21, 2011 [16 favorites]


The rocket can carry 28,650 pounds? How much does the Republican party weigh?

Just kidding! Ok, how about just the Senate?
posted by orme at 6:03 AM on January 21, 2011


Why does it matter if you get "smoked out of the box" if you are going to win at the end?

Not all of us live in places where there are 17,000 mile straights. With no lights. I'm sure there are plenty of cars on the road with a higher top end than mine, but there aren't many places to go 158* miles per hour in New Hampshire. I'll take the torque.

Stupid governed restriction
posted by yerfatma at 6:18 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's critically important to beat that random stranger in the car in the other lane to the next traffic light, even if he doesn't realize that you are actually racing him. The fate of your progeny rests upon this.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:38 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:45 AM on January 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sadly, as you get faster all the green lights shift to red.
posted by blue_beetle at 6:54 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So if we build a seriously tall building on a really high mountain and erect one of these on the top floor.......

Exactly. No, I'm serious. This is a valid way to reduce cost to orbit. It's basically what a space elevator is, except instead of a tall building it's a long tether counterbalanced by a weight placed all the way out at the stable L5 liberation point. But so far we don't have a material strong enough and light enough for a tether.


But we could build a Lofstrom launch loop right now.
For less cost, more payloads per time period and no waiting for exotic materials. Launch vehicles could also land on the loop which would recapture energy usable for launches, or launch vehicles could be lifting bodies that land on normal runways like the shuttle.

The Lofstrom launch loop also solves the problem of carrying fuel to carry more fuel in conventional rockets as no fuel is needed to reach LEO or beyond depending on exit velocity, but otherwise any fuel carried into orbit is for use in orbit, boosting to higher orbits or transferring out of Earth orbit.

It also avoids two major problems with a space elevator - how to power the elevator up and down the ribbon, and how to avoid congestion. A space elevator is slow and technically their can only be one elevator per ribbon of cable. A Lofstrom loop can launch and recover as many vehicles per hour as you can schedule, as long as you have enough energy to keep that internal inductor spinning. The theoretical turn around trip time for a space elevator is something like several days.

If we (as a species) had any foresight we would have built a Lofstrom loop by now. We could probably have built several for the cost of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars alone.
posted by loquacious at 6:58 AM on January 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


Honestly, officer, the light appeared green!
Officer: do you know how fast you were going, boy?
Me: nope, but I know where I am!

(thank you I'll be here all week)
posted by kurosawa's pal at 7:05 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sadly, as you get faster all the green lights shift to red.

Only the ones behind you. Red lights in front of you will have their wavelength apparently compressed, so you get green!

Bumper sticker (on a red background): If this sticker is blue, slow down!
posted by echo target at 7:12 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


But we could build a Lofstrom launch loop right now.

I really don't want to be anyplace remotely near *bad math* 120,000 tons of iron going 31000 km/h, built by the lowest bidder.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:47 AM on January 21, 2011


I really don't want to be anyplace remotely near *bad math* 120,000 tons of iron going 31000 km/h, built by the lowest bidder.

Yeah, it's a lot of kinetic energy that could go very wrong. That's why you build it over the ocean near the equator. Note that a launch loop is a self-supporting structure. It needs anchors and tethers to hold it down on the ground, not foundations and structures to hold it up.

But it's still less dangerous then the catastrophe of a broken space elevator, which would either wrap around most of the planet like the world's largest bullwhip made out of the world's strongest material (theoretically carbon nanotubes or a diamondoid material) or would rain potentially toxic nanoparticle debris over most of the Earth as it burned up and dispersed over the earth on re-entry.

Compared to a space elevator a launch loop is relatively sane and much less dangerous, and actually has less potential kinetic energy than a falling space elevator.
posted by loquacious at 8:11 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Confuzed
posted by chimik8 at 8:28 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


But a space elevator has nutz boi!
posted by Mister_A at 8:39 AM on January 21, 2011


I'd rather push a Ford than drive a Delta IV.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:55 AM on January 21, 2011


How much does the Republican party weigh? Just kidding! Ok, how about just the Senate?

Very, very roughly:

17 American women @ ~ 160 lbs average: 2,720 lbs
83 American men @ ~ 190 lbs average: 15,770 lbs

So the Senators alone (naked -- yuck), weigh roughly 18,490 lbs. But, at least within the atmosphere, you're going to generate most of the lift with hot air.
posted by The Bellman at 8:59 AM on January 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


We can starve and dehydrate them for a few days to save fuel costs.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:16 AM on January 21, 2011


Compared to a space elevator a launch loop is relatively sane and much less dangerous, and actually has less potential kinetic energy than a falling space elevator.

Perhaps but you're still talking about construction a structure that goes up to 80km, which is more than 10x the height of the Burj Dubai. The loop itself might be very small, but you still need to consider maintenance and repairs on an 80km structure with a length of 2k km.

It doesn't rely on any future, exotic materials like the space elevator ... but this would be one of the greatest construction or engineering projects ever undertaken. You're talking about building this enormous structure over the ocean, at the equator. This isn't exactly across the Midwest. I really doubt it would be accomplished with the price tag of the last two wars combined.

I take the current reliance on rockets not so much as a bunch of short-sighted bureaucrats, but the fact that we simply don't need to launch a lot of cargo into space (and the large majority of things launched into space are only applicable to large nations with large defense budgets). Even for communications satellites, it makes more sense to run fiber due to the latency involved.
posted by geoff. at 9:26 AM on January 21, 2011


but you still need to consider maintenance and repairs on an 80km structure with a length of 2k km

This guy's job just got harder.
posted by mazola at 9:34 AM on January 21, 2011


But we could build a Lofstrom launch loop right now.

We can build an 80km high structurte? Thats pretty cool.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2011


doh, structure.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:43 AM on January 21, 2011


Cost to Build and Launch: $100,000,000+
Curb Weight (No Fuel or Payload): 180,000 lbs.
Curb Weight (w/Fuel and Satellite): 1.71 million lbs.
Height: ~230 feet

Well that finally explains why people keep inquiring as to whether I have a Delta IV Heavy Rocket in my jeans, or I'm just pleased to be in their company...
posted by Debaser626 at 9:52 AM on January 21, 2011


Look, this is all well and good, people should be good and smart consumers and comparison shop and all that, but you need a Delta IV rocket to be tooling around town and you're doing some serious announcing of your insecurities as a dude.
posted by Skygazer at 10:13 AM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


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