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Space Shuttle Day-of-Launch Trajectory Design OperationsA top priority of any launch vehicle is to insert as much mass into the desired orbit as possible. This requirement must be traded against vehicle capability in terms of dynamic control, thermal constraints, and structural margins. The vehicle is certified to specific structural limits which will yield certain performance characteristics of mass to orbit. Some limits cannot be certified generically and must be checked with each mission design. The most sensitive limits require an assessment on the day-of-launch. To further minimize vehicle loads while maximizing vehicle performance, a day-of-launch trajectory can be designed. This design is optimized according to that day s wind and atmospheric conditions, which increase the probability of launch. The day-of-launch trajectory design and verification process is critical to the vehicle s safety. The Day-Of-Launch I-Load Update (DOLILU) is the process by which the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Space Shuttle Program tailors the vehicle steering commands to fit that day s environmental conditions and then rigorously verifies the integrated vehicle trajectory s loads, controls, and performance. This process has been successfully used for almost twenty years and shares many of the same elements with other launch vehicles that execute a day-of-launch trajectory design or day-of-launch trajectory verification. Weather balloon data is gathered at the launch site and transmitted to the Johnson Space Center s Mission Control. The vehicle s first stage trajectory is then adjusted to the measured wind and atmosphere data. The resultant trajectory must satisfy loads and controls constraints. Additionally, these assessments statistically protect for non-observed dispersions. One such dispersion is the change in the wind from the last measured balloon to launch time. This process is started in the hours before launch and is repeated several times as the launch count proceeds. Should the trajectory design not meet all constraint criteria, Shuttle would be No-Go for launch. This Shuttle methodology is very similar to other unmanned launch vehicles. By extension, this method would likely be employed for any future NASA launch vehicle. This paper will review the Shuttle s day-of-launch trajectory optimization and verification operations as an example of a more generic application of day-of-launch design and validation. With Shuttle s retirement, it is fitting to document the current state of this critical process and capture lessons learned to benefit current and future launch vehicle endeavors.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Harrington, Brian E. (United Space Alliance Houston, TX, United States)
Date Acquired
August 25, 2013
Publication Date
September 26, 2011
Subject Category
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
Report/Patent Number
Meeting Information
AIAA Space 2011 Conference(Long Beach, CA)
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits
Public Use Permitted.

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