RSLV progress – potential VSE bonus

by Chris Bergin

The Radially Segmented Launch Vehicle (RSLV) Project is picking up the pace, with the manufacter of the stainless steel tanks now selected.

The vehicle, which is being developed for low cost commerical and science payload lauches, will use a Liquid Methane/Liquid Oxygen engine that may play a role in developments for NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration (VSE) plans.
Huge amounts of VSE releated insider news and presentations are available for download on L2. See list at the end of this article.


**ARES V / Mars Transport Vehicle (MTV) LIVE UPDATE PAGES**

Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is responsible for engine and engine component testing and oversight of all propellant tank hardware design, development, fabrication and testing, and aligned with KT Engineering of Huntsville.

KT Engineer have selected Walker Stainless Equipment Group of New Lisbon, Wisconsin, to manufacture stainless steel fuel tanks for the next generation launch vehicle.

Walker Stainless Equipment aren’t a space flight specific company, more well known for producing storage tanks for the dairy industry, as well as other stainless steel products. Via the RSLV project, Walkers now have new, state-of-the-art fabrication welding facility, featuring a 12-axis, numerically controlled welding tool, at their New Lisbon plant.

They will be tasked with fabricating a series of wedge shaped propellant tanks, arranged in a circular fashion. They will form a single propulsion stage that will power an aerospike engine – a hybrid of what was used on the ill-fated SSTO (Single Stage to Orbit) X-33.

According to MSFC, ‘The innovative, liquid oxygen and liquid methane engines use pressurized propellant tanks to force fuel into their combustion chambers, where the fuel is ignited and burned to produce thrust.

‘The environmentally friendly LOX-methane propellants burn cleanly and deliver greater efficiency than conventional propellants – a major factor in achieving the project’s ultimate goal of delivering heavy payloads to orbit for less than $10 million per flight.’

A ‘pathfinder’ version of the tank will be revealed at the end of the year, with structural and mechanical testing of the tanks commencing at Marshall in spring 2007, followed by hot-fire tests of LOX-methane engines mated with pathfinder tanks.

In April 2006, RSLV Project engineers successfully completed a 103-second hot-fire engine test at the Marshall Center – believed to be the longest-duration test in history of a LOX-methane engine developed in the United States.

The fully functioning engine is likely to be years away from being certified, but the hope remains that this project will aid the potential of a methane based engine re-entering NASA’s exploration plans, which has currently shelved its involvement in the baselined plans due to the costs of developing the engine associated with those fuels.

The inclusion of a LOX/Methane engine back into the Orion’s plans would help on a number of fronts, not least the plans for in-situ resources at the future destinations for the VSE, along with it being around 20 percent more efficient than the current hypergolics that are baselined into the plans as they stand at present.

Such cross-cooperation between the RSLV Project and NASA Constellation would be a welcomed boost, as Constellation continue to battle against serious design problems incurred with the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle that will carry Orion into orbit.

L2 Resources For Ares I, V and Constellation:  Ares I-1 Test Flight Plan (full outline) Presentation. Ares I extra solids graphics and info. Ares I troubleshooting latest. Ares I Reference Trajectory. Boeing’s STS to Ares – Lessons Learned Presentation. Latest Ares I and Ares V baseline Configuration image and data. CLV DAC-1C (Changes to CLV Upper Stage).

Ares I-1: Four Seg+Dummy ‘Tuna Can’ stage. Ascent Developmental Flight Test Presentation. CLV Pad 39B Handover Info and Latest. New images of CLV on top of new MLP and LUT. Lockheed Martin CEV/Orion Updates. Constellation news updates. ATK figures on the 5-Seg Booster weight for CLV.

90 Minute Video of Constellation all hands meeting. CLV TIM Meeting Information. CLV/CaLV Infrastructure, Timelines and Information. Escape System Trade Study Presenation.

CEV-CLV Design Analysis Cycle Review (DAC-2) Presentation. Constellation SRR updates. CLV Stick – Troubleshooting/Alternatives/Updates. New CEV Images (include abort mode). Flight Design and Dynamics Division CEV update. CLV Mono-propellant RCS system. CEV pressurisation system review. CLV/CEV Configuration Images. The 2×3 Seg SRB Crew Launch Vehicle Option Presentation…plus more.

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