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A Future Solar Orbital Transfer Vehicle Concept

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1 Author(s)
Charles F. Gartrell ; General Research Corporation

The limiting performance of any orbital transfer vehicle (OTV) is fixed by its mass characteristics and the energy content of its propellant. The direct heating of hydrogen to high temperatures can produce practical specific impulses of 790 s which is to be compared with the liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen limit of about 480 s in practical systems. A solar orbital transfer vehicle (SOTV) has been designed which utilizes a 100 m diameter concentrator system to provide the approximate 10 MW of thermal power needed to provide a nominal thrust level of 2780 N. The SOTV offers a compromise between typical chemical OTVs and electric propulsion OTVs. The SOTV can deliver 16 000 kg to geosynchronous orbit and 5000-10 000 kg to the inner planets. A four-week period for the assembly and payload integration for the SOTV has been found necessary. Several techniques for controlling the thrust level and thermal soak of the heat exchanger have been examined. Two of these, an expandable pupil stop reflector and concentrator surface deformation, are highly competitive. Considerable mission injection opportunity flexibility is possible with more than a 10 h launch window centered about each of local dusk and dawn.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems  (Volume:AES-19 ,  Issue: 5 )