Date of Award:

2016

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Advisor/Chair:

Stephen A. Whitmore

Abstract

Aircraft-based space-launch platforms allow operational flexibility and offer the potential for significant propellant savings for small-to-medium orbital payloads. The NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s Towed Glider Air-Launch System (TGALS) is a small-scale flight research project investigating the feasibility for a remotely-piloted, towed, glider system to act as a versatile air launch platform for nano-scale satellites. Removing the crew from the launch vehicle means that the system does not have to be human rated, and offers a potential for considerable cost savings. Utah State University is developing a small throttled launch-assist system for the TGALS platform. This "stage zero" design allows the TGALS platform to achieve the required flight path angle for the launch point, a condition that the TGALS cannot achieve without external propulsion. Throttling is required in order to achieve and sustain the proper launch attitude without structurally overloading the airframe. The hybrid rocket system employs gaseous-oxygen and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) as propellants. This thesis summarizes the development and testing campaign, and presents results from the clean-sheet design through ground-based static fire testing. Development of the closed-loop throttle control system is presented.

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