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Technology Maturation and Flight Validation for Air Launched Liquid Rockets

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Technology Maturation and Flight Validation for Air Launched Liquid Rockets

Generation Orbit is partnering with NASA-AFRC to conduct a flight test campaign for GOLauncher 1 (GO1) Inert Test Article (ITA), to include aircraft integration testing and captive carry flight testing.  The GO1 ITA is a mass properties and aerodynamics simulator for the GOLauncher 1 (GO1) rocket vehicle (RV).  The collaboration has enabled a number of key elements of the GOLauncher 1 development program to be completed ahead of schedule and at reduced cost. 
The central objectives of the collaboration include:
• Provide risk reduction, verification and validation platform for suborbital and orbital launch systems (GOLauncher 1 and GOLauncher 2)
• Demonstrate value proposition of air launch, COTS avionics, lean ground ops, and launch processing flow automation and advantages of GOLaunchers for small launchers both technically and economically
• Validate air launch operations including RV to carrier aircraft platform (CAP) integration, spaceport operations, airspace coordination, release maneuvers, and in-flight abort scenarios
• Validate mission-specific analysis process for mission planning, store separation analysis, and operations by applying the process to the GO1 ITA flight test campaign, demonstrating and quantifying cost and schedule savings on a recurring mission basis
Methods and techniques proposed to accomplish the objectives include:
• NASA-developed store separation analysis capability
• NASA-owned and operated Gulfstream-III aircraft for GO1-ITA flight testing
• Build-up flight test methodology including ground integration, captive carry, and release flight testing
Significance of the proposed collaboration includes:
• Resolving significant technical challenges with air launch of liquid rockets including characterization of the captive carry and release environments, as well as verification of air launch operations
• Advancing the initial operational capability of GO1 to 2018
• Improving GO1 business case by reducing the development schedule and recurring cost, in-turn reducing recurring price and improving market capture

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