Flight Control System for Energy Management and Landing of Hypersonic Re-entry Vehicles

Building on Spin.Works‘ flight control technology for Unmanned Aerial Systems and experience in re-entry systems, Spin.Works is leading a study in the scope of an ESA contract to develop New Guidance Schemes for the Terminal Area Energy Management (TAEM) of Atmospheric Re-entry.

The TAEM and, to a lesser extent, the approach and landing phases require the cancellation of any position and energy errors accumulated during the entry phase, as well as the safe and precise landing of an unpowered vehicle with limited manoeuvrability on a pre-defined runway at speeds close to 200 knots.

A guidance system was designed for NASA’s HL-20 Lifting Body vehicle that features an on-board trajectory planner to provide enhanced flexibility. The trajectory is designed for maximum robustness against uncertainties and disturbances (as winds), and in extreme off-nominal conditions with the vehicle in its limits of capability, it is re-planned so that the new path can be flown at the vehicle’s centre-of-capability.

Spin.Works has demonstrated significant improvements of its guidance scheme over the existing Space Shuttle’s trajectory design and trajectory control algorithms for the energy management phase via extensive, high-fidelity 6DOF Monte-Carlo simulations, achieving demanding performance and robustness requirements under realistic system and mission uncertainties (such as high initial position and energy dispersion, significant aerodynamic coefficient and mass property uncertainties, and high winds).