Lightweight Structural Aerobrake for Orbital Positioning and Maneuvering
Agency / Branch:
DOD / USAF
The ability to maneuver, change orbits, and rapidly deploy spacecraft is a key requirement for the space user community. However, large and bulky propulsion systems with a significant mass of fuel on board often limit the maneuverability and capabilitiesof space vehicles. AeroAstro is developing aerobraking concepts and structures that use the Earth's atmosphere for braking and steering, significantly reducing the amount of propellant and even the type of propulsion systems required on spacecraft. Verylightweight aerobraking structures can enable significant reduction in mass coupled with an increase in capability.Using aerobraking, AeroAstro is developing with commercial funding the Small Payload ORbit Transfer (SPORTT) system to enable small payloads to use low-cost secondary launch opportunities and still reach custom orbits. A lightweight aerobrake structuraldesign is key to the SPORT concept. To fit within constrained volumes, aerobraking structural members must be tightly packaged and lightweight. Structural booms must deploy to approximately ten times their length to produce a seventy-fold increase inprofile area. AeroAstro proposes to investigate various applications and structural technologies for the aerobrake design.TThe use of aerobraking provides spacecraft and vehicles like SPORT with a much greater orbit transfer capability than that achievable with direct propulsion. Aerobraking reduces the ?V requirement for a GTO to LEO orbit transfer from a costly 2,340 m/sdown to an affordable 378 m/s, an amazing 84% reduction in ?V requirement. While the GTO to LEO case is extreme, other transfer missions, such as GEO to LEO and LEO to Intercept, each reveal a 50% savings in the ?V requirement. This will result in amassive reduction in launch costs for small satellites.The aerobraking technology payoff is significant, with commercial and government utility forseen not only for the SPORT vehicle, but also in a variety of other applications. Potential applications for the aerobraking technology include population ofmicrosatellite constellations, situational pre-positioning, and space asset resupply.There are numerous potential customers, both government and commercial, for the technology that AeroAstro is proposing to develop. The first customer for this aerobraking technology will likely be a customer for AeroAstro's SPORT vehicle. A commercialcustomer is already funding a feasibility study for the first SPORT, which could be launched in 2003-2004.
Small Business Information at Submission:
520 Huntmar Park Drive Herndon, VA 20170
Number of Employees: