Initial Results from the Demonstration and Analysis of Reusable Nanosat Launch Vehicle Operations
DTIC, 17 January 2012
Abstract : Flight testing of prototype reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) has declined significantly since a period in the mid-1990s that was marked by ambitious projects but uneven results. Consequently, a new program has been established with the objective of investigating RLV-type fast turn-around flight operations. Major distinctions from these earlier efforts include the use of a smaller class of vehicles and payloads, along with an initial emphasis on operations as opposed to advanced technologies. This focus on a hybrid-type (reusable first stage and expendable second stage) "nanosat launch vehicle" (NLV) that ultimately could deliver 10 kg to low Earth orbit has already produced tangible results. These include initial operational capability of a new prototype vehicle just six months after project start, two flights of this vehicle within 3.5 hours, a total of four flights within an eleven month period, pathfinding operations from a new launch site and the manifesting of numerous technology and academic experiments. Lessons learned from this first round of demonstration and analysis are now guiding the development of several next-generation prototype reusable NLVs that will enter flight testing later this year.