Aerodynamic database development for a future reusable space launch vehicle, the Orbital 500R

Stindt, Tristan and Merrifield, Jim and Fossati, Marco and Ricciardi, Lorenzo Angelo and Maddock, Christie Alisa and West, Michael and Kontis, Kostantinos and Farkin, Bernard and McIntyre, Stuart (2019) Aerodynamic database development for a future reusable space launch vehicle, the Orbital 500R. In: International Conference on Flight Vehicles, Aerothermodynamics and Reentry Missions & Engineering, 2019-09-30 - 2019-10-03, Monopoli.

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The Orbital 500R is a commercial semi-reusable, two-stage launch system under development by Orbital Access. The focus of this paper is a numerical aerodynamic analysis of the reusable first stage spaceplane, capable of powered and glided flight. The vehicle is intended to release expendable upper stage(s) to inject 500-kilogram of payload into low Earth orbit. Ejection of the upper stage(s) is expected to be above 85-kilometres, after which the first stage spaceplane will perform re-entry and landing. Toolset validation and the establishment of best practice is an integral aspect of assessing and optimising system performance and controllability. Steps have been taken to progress this, related to the use of Fluid Gravity Engineering Navier-Stokes solver, ANITA. The validation activities were focused around the characterisation of the aerodynamics of two wing-body experimental models, tested across a range of angles of attack at Mach 4.0 and 8.2 respectively. The results have provided a sufficient level of confidence in the use of ANITA to assess the aerodynamic performance of spaceplane wing-body configurations for supersonic and hypersonic flow regimes. A computational assessment of the vehicle's aerodynamics has been performed by means of both engineering-based tools and Navier-Stokes CFD computations. Lessons learned from the validation activities fed into the use of ANITA to characterise the vehicle's aerodynamics from Mach 3.0 and above. The lift and drag characteristics of the vehicle were found to be very comparable to those documented for the X-34 reusable launch vehicle from Mach 2.0 up to Mach 6.0. Furthermore, strong code-to-code agreement was observed with the SU2 and ANSYS-Fluent Navier-Stokes solvers for aerodynamic characteristics at Mach 3.0.