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TRIAL BY FIRE

March 17, 2017

TRIAL BY FIRE?  PASS THAT TEST!

The auto club used to say “Bring them back alive”.  That would be a good idea for customer payloads and passengers too.  Our orbiter aims to reach orbit from a runway without having a payload fairing as big as my house.  That has meant avoiding the tall “V” tails that would disrupt our launcher’s idealized wing.  Now we need to be able to handle the inferno of reentry without the usual control surfaces.  By now you know that I won’t have any problem with UNusual control surfaces!  We have to enter the atmosphere with the nose high and the belly serving as a heat shield.  There must be control of pitch, roll, and yaw in temperatures reaching 2000 degrees or more.

There is another segment of this landing though.  After surviving the fireball of a meteorite, we want to be able to fly as a decent aircraft on the final approach to the runway.  We don’t want a lifting body that only flies level when it is forced to do so while suffering from excessive drag.  A flying brick is not reassuring to customers.  We need good control in level flight and a good way to meet the runway without a lot of extra weight and complexity.

For control during reentry the ESA demonstrated a very uncomplicated solution.  This uses only a split body flap, but doesn’t offer a lot of promise for making a runway landing.  This is adequate for the meteorite phase of reentry, but what do we do next for a gentle lading?

ESA LB2

First, we have moved the vertical surfaces inboard to preserve a clean flow along the joined wings.  This helps assure the air breathing and rocket boosted delivery to space.

B18

Separation in space keeps us away from aerodynamic issues at staging, and we can open up the orbiter body flaps to keep them clear of the rocket engine plume.  No drag in space!

B24

PARTING COMPANY

B4

OPEN WIDE!

For roll and pitch control during reentry the lower body flaps are split per the ESA example above.  The elevon fairings remain in place during the early reentry phase.  The small elevons might not suffer extreme damage, but they are probably not especially effective during the fireball phase.

B7

When temperature, speed, and altitude drops the fairings may also be dropped.  In level flight the elevons and rudders offer more effective control for the final approach.

B23

WARMING UP

B9

FAIR THEE WELL!

B15

HOMECOMING

B13

TOUCHDOWN!

Now you’re looking at that landing and wondering, “what’s missing from this picture?”  Well we want to save some fun for next week, right?

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