Undergraduate Team Space Transportation Design Competition
Design of Reusable Launch Vehicle with 10,000 to 20,000 lbm Low Earth Orbit Payload Capability
Reusable launch vehicles continue to hold promise of reduced launch cost and improved access to space. Private organizations are actively developing reusable suborbital vehicles and plans are in work to pursue reusable launch vehicles with orbital capability.
This design competition asks teams to develop a Reusable Launch Vehicle capable of delivering 10,000 to 20,000 lbm payloads to Low Earth Orbit. 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 level of reusability of the launch system components is not specified and should be a result of trade studies conducted in the conceptual phase of the project. This should allow students to consider various concepts such as fully reusable, reusable booster, single stage to orbit, or Space Shuttle like systems. Emphasis should also be given to the operability aspects of the system, since ultimately, the key to the viability of a reusable system is in the ability to minimize the time and effort required to turn around a vehicle between flights.
Design decisions include: propulsion systems (e.g., rocket or air-breathing), level of reusability, aerodynamic shape, thermal protection system type for take-off, reentry, and landing mode, basing location, structural materials, flight rate, fleet size, etc.
The project will require a multidisciplinary 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.