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Black Cab: A British Nanosat Launcher
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Black Cab: A British Nanosat Launcher


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"Black Cab": Concept for a winged reusable nanosat launch vehicle by Rick Newlands.

"Black Cab": Concept for a winged reusable nanosat launch vehicle by Rick Newlands.

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  • 1.
    • Rick the Rocketeer
    Preliminary thoughts on a UK nanosat launcher
  • 2. Benefits of air-launch
    • Launch occurs above Troposphere (above the weather).
    • Height increase: less propellant required to reach orbit.
    • Air thinner at altitude: less back-pressure on the rocket nozzle improves thrust.
    • Launchsite infrastructure no longer required.
    • Can launch out at sea (lowest population density).
    • Launch point can be easily moved so that there is no maritime traffic at launch point or first stage impact point.
    • Wide choice of launch locations, can vary for launching into different orbits.
    • No acoustic damage to launcher from pad reflection of noise
    • More abort options.
  • 3. White Knight 2: a gift from the Lift gods
  • 4. White Knight 2: Lift
    • Excess lift capacity (around 17 tonnes) can carry a heavier launch vehicle with ease, which allows use of lower mass ratios per stage, which allows:
    • Lower energy propellants (Lox not required).
    • Conservative construction: improves reliability.
    • Simple gas pressurisation of propellants rather than pumps.
    • Spare mass available for systems to recover and reuse 1 st stage.
  • 5. White Knight 2: drag
    • Launch above 50,000 feet allows:
    • Lower drag loss, allows much fatter fuselage (White Knight 2 can handle a fuselage up to 2.3 metres in dia).
    • Fatter fuselage allows more efficient tankage (more spherical), reduces mass.
    • Fatter fuselage allows use of lower density propellants (nitrous, ethane, propane, peroxide).
    • Unlike all other air-launch schemes, White Knight 2 places no volumetric constraints on the launcher.
  • 6. Candidate propulsion, 1 st stage:
    • Moderate to high chamber pressure required.
    • Safety requirement: close proximity to a manned aircraft on the ground and during climb to 50,000 feet.
    • Use British experience with nitrous.
    • White Knight 2 already has nitrous conditioning hardware for Spaceship 2 (engine hot air bleed for warming the nitrous tanks).
    • Large multiport nitrous hybrid.
    • Alternatively, nitrous-ethane self-pressurising biprop (similar to very reliable XCOR ‘teacart’ engine).
  • 7. Candidate propulsion, 2nd stage:
    • Can use low chamber pressure (space engine).
    • Restart capability required for orbital insertion.
    • No volume restrictions on tankage.
    • Biprop preferable for Isp and thrust-vectoring.
    • British experience with both nitrous and peroxide.
    • Nitrous-propane, gas-pressurised peroxide-propane, gas-pressurised peroxide-gas pressurised kero.
  • 8. Candidate propulsion, 3rd stage
    • Same as 2 nd stage.
    • Or, use a solid.
    • Solid is simpler, but less accurate orbital insertion unless the previous stage does the ‘pointing’ and delta V tweaks, as the Black Arrow 2 nd stage did.
  • 9. Current thinking:
    • There are two distinct schools of thought in the community for launching from an aircraft:
    • 1: airdrop: drop conventional rocket from underneath or out the back of an aircraft.
    • 2: winged: drop or tow a rocket with wings.
  • 10. 1: Airdrop method
    • Example of one of several air-launch methods currently being investigated.
    • Uses parachute to retard the rocket’s back-flip (retards pitch rate).
    • Rocket then fires from the vertical position as required.
    • Lightweight and simple solution.
    • E.g. ‘Quickreach’: 40,000 kg launch mass for 450 kg into LEO.
  • 11. Airdrop method continued
    • Peak thrust vector control angles reduced compared to horizontal release (pegasus).
    • Peak dynamic pressures (max Q) reduced.
    • No longitudinal bending loads on airframe.
    • No possibility of carrier aircraft being struck by launch vehicle or its debris, because vehicle passes well behind the aircraft upon ascent.
    • Low tech solution.
    • Proposed by Tspace (carried under the aircraft) and Airlaunch LLC (rolled out of the rear aircraft door).
  • 12.
    • 3 stages, all solids.
    • Dropped from horizontal at 39,000 ft and Mach 0.82
    • 23,130 kg at launch for 227 kg into 400 nm sun-synch orbit.
    • Ratio of launch mass to payload = 102:1
    2: winged, e.g. Pegasus
  • 13. Pegasus continued
    • Dropped at high airspeed (Mach 0.82, 240 Kts IAS) due to small wing area.
    • High airspeed and lowish altitude (39,000 ft) gives high max Q (max equivalent airspeed).
    • High-speed pullup eats a lot of sky: noticable delta V loss.
    • Pullup is gee-limited to around 2.5 gee.
    • 1 st stage steered by 3 movable fins only. Upper stages use thrust vectoring nozzles.
    • High acceleration on 1 st stage (approx 9 gee at burnout) keeps equivalent airspeed high enough for fins-only steering before staging.
    • 1 st stage has good inert mass fraction despite wings, stiff fuselage to resist transverse lift load, and fin actuators: a good composites achievement but proves it’s do-able.
  • 14. CNES/ONERA Dedalus
    • European rip-off of Pegasus (CNES).
    • 3 stages, all solids.
    • Like Pegasus, the upper stages hang off the nose, therefore the first stage ends up very tail-heavy upon stage separation: makes 1 st stage aerodynamically unstable, so can’t glide-recover 1 st stage.
    • Upper stages aren’t recovered either.
    • Dropped at 16 Km (53,000 ft), Mach 0.7, horizontally.
    • 15,000 kg at launch for 150 kg to Sun-synch orbit.
    • Ratio of launch mass to payload = 100:1
  • 15. CNES Telemaque
    • 3 stages: 2 nd and 3 rd stage within cargo bay of 1 st stage.
    • Cargo bay located at vehicle C.G. to minimise C.G. shift when upper stages separate.
    • 1 st stage glide-recovered and reused.
    • Just over 30,000 kg at launch, for 250 kg into sun-synch orbit.
    • Ratio of launch mass to payload = just over 120:1
    • To get decent first stage delta V (3 km/sec) need very light structure (low inert mass fraction). Need to work hard to achieve this with wings and stiff fuselage.
  • 16. Recover 1 st stage? Sim results:
    • Want around 3 km/sec delta V from 1 st stage.
    • Gives burnout Mach of around 10 ( if high gee ascent).
    • 1 st stage apogee around 540 Km.
    • Re-entry starts at Mach 11 at 70 Km up.
    • Main deceleration occurs around Mach 6 at 40 Km up.
    • Moderate aero heating: need thermal protection (high temperature resins/carbon-carbon).
    • Need ballute (balloon ‘chute) or wings.
    • SpaceX intends recovering Falcon 1 1 st stage (not winged) from a higher delta V. Not sure how.
    • Similarly, Kistler aerospace proposed recovering both stages of KS1 (not winged).
  • 17. Recover 1 st stage by parachute ?
    • Supersonic large diameter ballute as first stage of recovery (tested by NASA up to Mach 10). Stainless steel inflatable cloth bag coated in viton rubber.
    • Somewhat conversely, the bigger the ballute, the lower the gees and the heating. (numerous sim results).
    • Then main chute (gliding chute?).
    • Splash down in sea, just offshore if using gliding chute.
  • 18. Recover 1 st stage by wings ?
    • Need moderately low wing-loading (= all-up mass divided by wing area) to limit re-entry gees during pull-up to near-horizontal glide.
    • Re-entry heating increases with square root of wing-loading.
    • Lower wing-loading reduces landing airspeed.
    • So need biggish wings.
    • Big wings gives drag and mass hit during ascent.
    • But launch from white knight 2 needs bigger wings anyway as white knight 2 max airspeed is lower than the pegasus launch aircraft.
    • Remotely piloted: land on land or sea?
    • If land on land need simple sprung undercarriage (mass penalty).
  • 19.
    • Pimp Spaceship 2!
    • SS2 currently gives a delta V of around 1.4 Km/sec.
    • If this could be raised above 2 Km/sec then SS2 would be useful as a recoverable 1 st stage.
    • SS2 already in development: flight testing in progress, moulds available.
    • Remove crew, turn into an R.P.V.
    • Remove cabin, replace with mid-fuselage cargo bay for upper stages.
    • Reduce structural safety margins slightly to save mass (no longer crewed).
    • Add extra nitrous tank in nose.
    • Re-engine with larger hybrid.
    • Improve thermal protection.
    Just a wild thought:
  • 20. Or:‘Black cab’
    • Combination of selected bits of Pegasus, Telemaque, Spaceship 2, Blue steel missile, and Skylon.
    • Potential problem of shock-shock interaction if trying to use SS2’s elevons: they might melt off at higher Mach Numbers.
    • Also, SS2 folds up the rear part of its wings to move the wing centre of lift forward at high angles of attack for trimming: this reduces the effective wing area, but we need all the wing area we can get.
    • Use canard instead, which translates fore and aft to take the trim over large angle of attack range.
    • Wing anhedral (negative dihedral) to increase re-entry supersonic lift to reduce gees and heating.
    • Re-enter at angle of attack for max lift (around 60 degrees).
    • Needs CFD (Cranfield?) for aerodynamic tweaking.
    • 2 nd and 3 rd stages carried in payload bay at vehicle C.G.
  • 21. ‘Black cab’ preliminary sketch
  • 22. Black cab launch
  • 23. Re-entry
  • 24. British expertise
    • Qinetiq and British Aerospace too big: would cost too much.
    • Cranfield Aerospace (docked onto Cranfield Uni, won the X43 contract).
    • Cranfield and Bristol Unis (Aerodynamics).
    • Marshalls Aerospace (Pegasus launch aircraft).
    • Formula One teams (composites).
    • Irvin Parachutes (UK).
    • Various UK rocket engineers.
    • Notable UK simulation engineers.
    • Airborne Engineering (engine test-stand, power systems and avionics)
    • Surrey Satellites.