A report proposes the development of a system for launching payloads into orbit at about one-fifth the cost per unit payload weight of current systems. The system would be based on the formerly secret PILOT microsatellite- launching system developed in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik-1. The PILOT system was a solid-fuel, aerodynamically spun and spin-stabilized, five-stage rocket with onboard controls including little more than an optoelectronic horizon sensor and a timer for triggering the second and fifth stages, respectively. The proposal calls for four improvements over the PILOT system to enable control of orbital parameters:
- the aerodynamic tipover of the rocket at the top of the atmosphere could be modeled as a nonuniform gyroscopic precession and could be controlled by selection of the initial rocket configuration and launch conditions;
- the attitude of the rocket at the top of the first-stage trajectory could be measured by use of radar tracking or differential Global Positioning System receivers to determine when to trigger the second stage;
- the final-stage engines could be configured around the payload to enhance spin stabilization during a half-orbit coast up to apoapsis where the final stage would be triggered; and
- the final payload stage could be equipped with a "beltline" of small thrusters for correcting small errors in the trajectory as measured by an off-board tracking subsystem.
This work was done by Brian Wilcox of Caltech for NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:
Innovative Technology Assets Management
Mail Stop 202-233
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
Refer to NPO-20908, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.
This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Launching Payloads Into Orbit at Relatively Low Cost
(reference NPO-20908) is currently available for download from the TSP library.
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