Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition
Design of Air-Launched Orbital Vehicle
Air-launched orbital vehicles continue to hold promise of reduced launch cost and improved access to space. Pegasus, built by Orbital Sciences Corporation, is currently the only orbital air-launched system in operation. Other air-launched orbital systems, such as Stratolaunch and DARPA sponsored ALASA program, are in development. Similar systems were also the subject of Horizontal Launch Study published by DARPA and NASA in 2011.
This design competition asks teams to develop an Air-Launched Vehicle capable of delivering 5,000 lbs payloads to Low Earth Orbit. To meet the requirements of this design competition the orbital vehicle must be launched from an existing military or commercial aircraft or a credible modification thereof. Any significant modifications of the carrier aircraft, including orbital vehicle interface, must be specified and justified. Launch altitude, velocity, and attitude, as well as the number of stages and propulsion system for each stage of the launch vehicle, are to be selected in an initial trade study with justification given for the selected design. While the economics of any design is critical to its success, the emphasis of this competition is on the technical aspects of the launch system architecture. The design team should demonstrate advantages of their air-launched system over ground/sea based systems with comparable payload capability in terms of launch vehicle size, launch flexibility, launch site requirements, cost, operability, etc. The design team should also identify and address any risks and challenges that are unique to the proposed system.
The project will require a multi-disciplinary team of students. Traditional aerospace engineering disciplines such as structures, propulsion, flight mechanics, orbital mechanics, and optimization will be involved. Teams will make significant design decisions regarding the configuration and characteristics of their preferred system.