A Flexible Reusable Space Transportation System
S.S. Pietrobon (2000), JBIS, 53, 276-288
Keywords: Reusable launch vehicles, satellite launch vehicles, crewed launch vehicles, heavy lift launch vehicles.
A crewless reusable vertical take-off horizontal landing space transportation system is investigated. The single stage launch vehicle goes into a very low orbit around the Earth. At burnout, the payload is deployed. At apogee, the upper stage fires to put the payload into its desired orbit. The launch vehicle continues in a single orbit of the Earth, re-entering the atmosphere and returning to the launch site. We call this near single stage to orbit (NSTO). For satellite payloads, the satellite and upper stage are carried in a reusable pod attached to the top of the vehicle. For crewed vehicles, the pod is replaced by a small winged vehicle which can be used for crew transfer and rescue from the International Space Station. This allows the launch vehicle to use a common bulkhead between the fuel and oxidiser tanks, further reducing launch vehicle mass. A number of propellant combinations are investigated. Computer simulations indicate that liquid oxygen with quadricyclene promises to give the largest payload mass for similar size vehicles. The launch vehicle can also be modified to be a fly- back booster for a heavy lift launch vehicle (HLLV). In this case the upper stage and payload are replaced with jet engines and kerosene fuel tanks. A pod is used to recover the second stage engines for reuse.