What is it about?

This paper presents a method to enable generation of a trajectory for a reusable satellite launch vehicle to re-enter the earth's atmosphere from space after having launched satellites into orbit. The vehicle considered is an un-powered fixed wing aircraft with satellites stored within its fuselage. The only means of control are the aerodynamic forces acting on its wings and fuselage. The re-entry phase of any vehicle into the earth's atmosphere is characterized by high structural load and heat generation on the vehicle's structure. The algorithm presented in this paper generate a path towards a desired location on earth in such a manner that the structural load and heat induced on its surface are minimized.

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Why is it important?

The paper considers full nonlinear physical behavior of the dynamics, the effects of the earth's rotation on its path, and ensures that the trajectory is robust to any uncertainties in the aircraft lift or drag coefficients. Furthermore, the algorithm generates a solution online, thus the need to perform offline computations is eliminated. This makes the vehicle robust to any deviations from the expected flight path.


This paper involves a work on an exciting new approach to how satellites are launched. Currently most space agencies launch satellites through rockets and the rockets the splash down in the oceans and mostly discarded. The idea to attach wings to satellite launchers and retrieve them back to the launch pad is a positive step in the direction to reduce the cost of access to space and enable launching satellites in a more cost effective manner.

Omkar Halbe
Technische Universitat Munchen

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Robust Reentry Guidance of a Reusable Launch Vehicle Using Model Predictive Static Programming, Journal of Guidance Control and Dynamics, January 2014, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), DOI: 10.2514/1.61615.
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