NASA’s Office of Chief Technologist has published detailed information about suborbital vehicles that will be available beginning in 2011 for researchers to conduct microgravity experiments. The vehicles are being built by Armadillo Aerospace,Â Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic and XCOR.
Today we will look at platforms being offered by Armadillo Aerospace. The Texas company expects to make the first flight under the NASA funded Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) program in January, begin commercial cargo operations in 2011, and start human spaceflight by the end of 2012.
ARMADILLO AEROSPACE PLATFORMS
1. Super MOD
- Super Mod is an extended version of the Mod vehicle and has a two stacked tank configuration with the payload fairing on the top of the vehicle. The Mod vehicles successfully competed in NASA’s Lunar Lander Challenge winning first prize in Level 1 (2008, Mod) and winning 2nd place in Level 2 (2009, Super Mod).
- Two stacked tank configuration.
2. Tube Vehicle
- “Conventional” rocket style vehicle
- Four tank arrangement with capsule for manned & unmanned flights
- 2 passengers
- Pilots not required; autonomous flight
- First CRuSR Test Flight: January 2011
- Commercial Operations (Cargo): 2011
- Passenger Flights: Before end of 2012
A typical flight profile consists of a vertical launch followed by a coast to apogee, a freefall descent, recovery by drogue chute and a powered vertical landing. The vehicle is fully autonomous and piloted from the ground.
- MOD & Super-MOD: 150,000 ft
- Tube: 100-km (space)
- SOST: 100-km (space)
- Typical flight duration: ~20 minutes for suborbital space
- Typical duration of microgravity: ~3 minutes
Payload configuration can be rack-based or custom mounted with flights either being sole ride or shared ride. The vehicle can provide microgravity or partial gravity (1/3, 1/6, …) and can fly lower altitude trajectories with translation for testing hazard avoidance sensor suites. Payload flights will come online in 2011.
- 200-kg to 100-km
- SOST is capsule shaped with internal volume of 55 cu ft/1,500 liters
- Subject to vehicle used, mission profile, manned/unmanned
- 200-kg to 100-km unmanned $250K
- Partial payload on shared ride $10-50K
- 2010: Once per week on average
- 2011: Two to three times per week on average with multiple flights in a single day
- Spaceport America, NM
- Spaceport Oklahoma, Burns Flat, OK
Editor’s Note: The above information was compiled from NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program website and Armadillo Aerospace’s public Request for Information (RFI) response to the CRuSR program. A shout out to Clark Lindsey of Hobby Space for originally finding the published information.