RLV Flight Operations Demonstration with a Prototype Nanosat Launch Vehicle
GARVEY SPACECRAFT CORP LONG BEACH CA
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Actual flight-based test and evaluation of vertical take-off reusable launch vehicles RLVs has been dormant in the U.S. since the end of the SDIONASAMcDonnell Douglas Delta Clipper - Experimental Advanced DC-XXA project in 1996. A joint industry-academic team working under sponsorship from the Air Force Research Laboratorys Propulsion Directorate took a small step in 2005 towards re-invigorating such RLV test and evaluation activities, using an early, low-fidelity prototype of the first stage for a proposed nanosat launch vehicle NLV that is sized to deliver up to 10 kg into low Earth orbit. This team developed the LOXethanol Prospector-7 P-7 in only six months and then flew it twice in a period of 3.5 hours after just eighteen hours of field site preparations. This compares to the twenty-six hour turn-around benchmark achieved with the DC-XA at the White Sands Missile Range. The P-7 has since been employed on a third flight test and is now undergoing preparation for its fourth mission later this year. In addition to supporting NLV development, it is anticipated that the results and lessons learned from these demonstrations of responsive, rapid RLV turn-around operations could also prove to be of relevance to the Air Forces ongoing investigations into hybrid launch vehicle concepts.
- Guided Missile Launching and Basing Support
- Unmanned Spacecraft