NASA NTRS, 6 April 2015
[Note: This report seems to indicate increased interest and a finding to put more effort into development of small launch vehicles at NASA.]
In FY14, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) Game Changing Development (GCD) Program investigated two technology areas in the ALTIA activity. The first would enable new markets in dedicated nanolaunchers; that is, launchers whose payload is very small and devoted solely to delivering CubeSat-sized payloads that would otherwise be restricted to secondary accommodation on missions that use a much larger class of launch vehicle (the state of the art).
Finding #2 – Pursue focused nanolauncher technologies and design approaches, such as integrated avionics and a three-stage nanolauncher. These two examples enable simpler infrastructures, shorter production times, and greater flight rate capability. Of the technologies the team had time to pursue, advanced avionics can reduce recurring cost by ~20%, as well as improve launch rates. However, advances in avionics that do not reduce the number of procured and installed avionics components do not realize significant cost and productivity benefits. A wider technology portfolio would be more effective in improving life cycle characteristics. A three-stage NL001 configuration (perhaps one with solids on the lower stages topped with a very small liquid upper stage) should achieve similar reductions,