Space Launch Initiative’s flight mechanics project begins work on the tool to test the ‘brains’ of the second generation reusable launch vehicle

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., in
conjunction with Universal Space Lines LLC of Newport Beach, Calif., have
created a software tool called Integrated Development and Operations System
(IDOS) to enhance flight mechanics technologies for second generation
reusable launch vehicles. Flight Mechanics includes the guidance,
navigation and control operations on the space vehicle.

IDOS provides a software development environment to design, develop,
test and validate the “brains” of the vehicle – the guidance, navigation and
control algorithms. These algorithms – a sequence of steps designed for
programming a computer to solve a problem – are being developed by Ohio
University in Athens. Once tested and validated, the algorithms will be
loaded on board the reusable launch vehicle flight computer.

The algorithms will enable the vehicle flight computer to determine,
in real time, variables such as actual trajectory, acceleration, attitude,
attitude rate, accurate position and velocity. The vehicle flight computer
can then determine the best flight path for the vehicle. If the vehicle
system detects a significant problem that would affect its flying qualities,
it can engage other systems on the vehicle – such as propulsion – to keep
the vehicle on a safe course to its planned destination or an alternative
landing site.

Advancing guidance, navigation and control capabilities within the vehicle
will allow for more automatic vehicle processes and thereby increase safety
and reliability for second generation reusable launch vehicles. In
addition, this advancement will speed up calculations and mission
development analysis, reducing time involved and operating costs.

For more information, please contact June Malone at the Marshall
Media Relations Department at (256) 544-0034 or by e-mail at

COBRA engine completes milestones; on track toward prototype

Taking one step closer to a second generation reusable engine,
NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., and Pratt &
Whitney-Aerojet Propulsion Associates recently completed two major
milestones for the Space Launch Initiative: a subscale preburner test and a
fabrication and proof test of a subscale milled channel wall nozzle for the
COBRA engine.

COBRA, short for Co-Optimized Booster for Reusable Applications, is
a reusable, hydrogen-fueled liquid booster and second stage engine with a
thrust level of 600,000 pounds of force developed by Pratt & Whitney of West
Palm Beach, Fla., and Aerojet of Sacramento, Calif.

Aerojet successfully completed testing the first of three subscale
preburners for the COBRA engine. Preburners are used to start the engine by
burning a fuel and oxidizer to provide power. The COBRA engine will feature
a liquid fuel and oxidizer preburner unlike the traditional gas fuel and
oxidizer to help lower temperatures and smooth ignition of the rocket

Pratt & Whitney-Aerojet Propulsion Associates completed fabricating
and proof testing of an approximately 40 percent scale, milled channel wall
nozzle for the COBRA engine. The nozzle is the component connected to the
thrust chamber that converts energy produced by hot gases of the ignited
fuel and oxidizer into velocity for ascent. The nozzle, capable of
withstanding extreme temperatures and pressures, was structurally tested at
pressures up to four times higher than normal operation. The tests assist
in validating the nozzle design, which will improve safety, cost and
reliability while reducing traditional fabrication time from four years to
one year.

For more information, please contact June Malone at the Marshall Media
Relations Department at (256) 544-0034 or by e-mail at

For additional news and information on the Space Launch Initiative, please
see these recent news releases:
* KSC tests smart umbilical mating system for NASA’s Space Launch
initiative, 4/23/02;
available at

* Milestone review brings NASA one step closer to new launch vehicle,
4/30/02; available at

Note to Editors/News Directors: The Space Launch Initiative Media Update is
a regular progress report to keep you informed about the technology
development activities of the program. Interviews and photos supporting the
Space Launch Initiative are available to news media representatives by
contacting June Malone at the Marshall Media Relations Department at (256)
544-0034. For additional news and information, please visit the Space
Launch Initiative on the Web at: or