Launch Vehicle Aerodynamics at NEAR

Under the direction of Michael Mendenhall, NEAR has participated in a number of commercial projects to provide aerodynamic services for an advanced launch vehicle design and analysis program. The highlights of some recent projects are noted below.

  1. Orbital Sciences Corporation

    NEAR did the complete aerodynamic design and analysis for the standard Pegasus air-launched booster which flew successfully using only computational aerodynamic analyses, no wind tunnel tests were performed prior to the first flight. NEAR provided the aerodynamics and associated analyses for the Taurus ground launch vehicle. In addition, NEAR worked with Orbital on various tasks associated with the X-34 vehicle.

  2. The Kistler Aerospace K-1 reusable launch vehicle aerodynamics program

    This effort has included the entire range of aerodynamics techniques, from engineering aerodynamics to inviscid and viscous CFD to an extensive wind tunnel test program. NEAR has had close interaction with many of the team members responsible for the various portions of the vehicle design and development. ICAS paper

  3. Beal Aerospace BA-1 and BA-2 launch vehicles

    NEAR provided aerodynamics data from analysis and wind tunnel tests for use by the various disciplines which required aerodynamic information for the design.

  4. NASA Marshall Space Flight Center

    NEAR has an ongoing contract to further develop and provide support for an integrated aerodynamics design and analysis procedure for advanced launch vehicles. The objective is to provide the launch vehicle designer with an economical and practical means to analyze and evaluate new launch vehicles during the conceptual and preliminary design phases. State-of-the-art aerodynamics analysis methods, historical design guidelines, corporate memory and experience, and an experimental database are being incorporated into a knowledge-based system. LVX software

  5. Kelly Space & Technology, Inc.

    NEAR provided aerodynamic analysis for use by Kelly in support of their NASA Space Transportation Architecture Study for the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Their concept was to develop a winged reusable booster that is tow-launched by a Boeing 747. The booster could loft either an expendable or reusable upper stage.

    The aerodynamic analysis was for the entire mission profile which includes both ascent and descent. The flight regimes of concern encompasses subsonic, supersonic and hypersonic flow for mated (towed), unmated (released), and separated booster/upperstage configurations.

  6. Rocket Development Company

    NEAR provided aerodynamic data for the Intrepid family of expendable launch vehicles (ELVs) from wind tunnel tests for use by the various disciplines which require aerodynamic information for the design.

In the above commercial launch vehicle programs, NEAR has been the team member representing aerodynamics. This involves working closely with GN&C, Structures, Performance, and Systems groups to provide the aerodynamics they need for their area. As part of this interaction process, NEAR understands the aerodynamic uncertainties and how they influence the use of the aerodynamic characteristics by the other disciplines.

NEAR understands the short schedules and fixed budgets which are typical of commercial programs. It is important to understand the kind of analyses appropriate for each specific problem; that is, what is good enough for the particular problem. It is not necessary to use the highest level CFD analysis for some problems in which a few-hour estimate based on simple engineering methods is adequate. Because of our small size and flexibility, NEAR is available for quick turnaround of unique aerodynamics problems as they arise.

NEAR has experience in representing the aerodynamics to outside reviewers. NEAR has an excellent reputation, and is viewed as an independent organization which presents unbiased aerodynamic results with credibility.

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