The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project is to advance the development of reusable vehicles for space. Current space launch solutions use multi-million-dollar rockets discarded after a single use, increasing launch costs and limiting availability. Even the best solutions reuse only a portion of the rocket a handful of times, resulting in launch costs of $5,000/kg and higher. Rockets offering 100% reusability and operating like aircraft reduce cost, availability concerns, and service potential of space launch vehicles. The proposed technology advances reusable space launch vehicles.
This SBIR Phase I project proposes to develop new technology enabling space launch vehicles to re-enter the atmosphere and land propulsively at a target destination for reuse. Importantly, robust design solutions are proposed so that extensive refurbishment efforts are not required. Technical challenges include the combination of high-efficiency propulsion, rigorous thermal protection, and low structural mass needed to complete in-space mission objectives. This research investigates a new technical solution combining fundamental vehicle performance with system-level efficiencies to enable reusable second-stage vehicle designs. The optimization parameters include environmental conditions, energy balance, performance predictions, component sizing, and mechanical design elements.
This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.