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Payload Performance Analysis for a Reusable Two-Stage-to-Orbit VehicleThis paper investigates a unique approach in the development of a reusable launch vehicle where, instead of designing the vehicle to be reusable from its inception, as was done for the Space Shuttle, an expendable two stage launch vehicle is evolved over time into a reusable launch vehicle. To accomplish this objective, each stage is made reusable by adding the systems necessary to perform functions such as thermal protection and landing, without significantly altering the primary subsystems and outer mold line of the original expendable vehicle. In addition, some of the propellant normally used for ascent is used instead for additional propulsive maneuvers after staging in order to return both stages to the launch site, keep loads within acceptable limits and perform a soft landing. This paper presents a performance analysis that was performed to investigate the feasibility of this approach by quantifying the reduction in payload capability of the original expendable launch vehicle after accounting for the mass additions, trajectory changes and increased propellant requirements necessary for reusability. Results show that it is feasible to return both stages to the launch site with a positive payload capability equal to approximately 50 percent of an equivalent expendable launch vehicle. Further discussion examines the ability to return a crew/cargo capsule to the launch site and presents technical challenges that would have to be overcome.
Document ID
Document Type
Technical Memorandum (TM)
Tartabini, Paul V. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Beaty, James R. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Lepsch, Roger A. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Gilbert, Michael G. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
Date Acquired
May 27, 2015
Publication Date
May 1, 2015
Subject Category
Spacecraft Propulsion and Power
Launch Vehicles and Launch Operations
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
WBS: WBS 869021.
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

Available Downloads

NameType 20150008958.pdf STI