Research & Development

Successful Demonstration of RLV-type Operations

November 30, 2005 (mirror of GSC's website)

A joint industry / academic / government team lead by Garvey Spacecraft Corporation and California State University, Long Beach conducted the successful launch, recovery, refurbishment and re-launch on 29 October 2005 of the Prospector 7 test vehicle within a period of just 3.5 hours.  All field site activities, including set-up, flight ops and post-test processing, took place over a 24-hour time frame.

P-7 Undergoing Preparation for First Flight Test

P-7 Leaving the Launch Rail on the First Flight Test - photo by J. Mullin

P-7 About to Land After First Flight Test - photo by B. Rotty

P-7 Undergoing Final Refurbishment for the Second Flight Test

P-7 Undergoing Preparation for First Flight Test P-7 Leaving the Launch Rail on the First Flight Test - photo by J. Mullin P-7 About to Land After First Flight Test - photo by B. Rotty P-7 Undergoing Final Refurbishment for the Second Flight Test

Second P-7 Flight of the Day  - photo by J. Mullin

P-7 Under Parachute for the Second Time - photo by J. Mullin

P-7 About to Land Again  - photo by J. Mullin

P-7 Post-Landing Retrieval Underway

Second P-7 Flight of the Day  - photo by J. Mullin P-7 Under Parachute for the Second Time - photo by J. Mullin P-7 About to Land Again  - photo by J. Mullin P-7 Post-Landing Retrieval Underway

The Air Force Research Laboratory's Propulsion Directorate branch at Edwards Air Force Base sponsored this RLV demonstration project through a Phase I SBIR contract to GSC, with CSULB participating as a major subcontractor. The project's objective during this initial phase has been the demonstration and evaluation of design and processing factors associated with rapid turn-around RLV operations, with a test goal of conducting two flights within a single 24-hour period. This work builds upon the experiences and metrics for vertical take-off liquid propellant rocket systems that were previously established by the SDIO / McDonnell Douglas / NASA Delta Clipper prototype RLV test program, during which a turn-around of 26 hours between flights was achieved in June 1996.

Flight videos:

GSC and CSULB developed the P-7 over a period of six months. Its design is derived from the Prospector 5 and 6 test vehicles that the team previously developed and flew as early steps towards an operational nanosat launch vehicle (NLV). Testing took place on the Koehn dry lake bed outside the town of Mojave, CA, with site support services provided by the Friends of Amateur Rocketry, Inc.

In addition to evaluating RLV operations, the P-7 project also provided flight opportunities for a number of university payloads. These included a data logger from Montana State University and a prototype of the Poly-Picosat Orbital Deployer (P-POD) developed by Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. These two experiments flew on both flights, with the P-POD actually deploying a number of simulated "CubeSats."

The CALVEIN team and AFRL are now updating their plans to re-use this hardware in future NLV-related flight testing. The next phase of testing presently envisions expanding the altitude and velocity objectives while still retaining responsive launch times and reusable technology.

For additional information about either the CALVEIN project and/or the cooperative program between CSULB and Garvey Spacecraft Corporation, please contact the following project representatives:

  • Dr. Eric Besnard
  • Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Dept.
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • 1250 Bellflower Blvd Long Beach, CA 90840
  • Tel:(562) 985-5442
  • Fax:(562) 985-1669
  • Email:besnarde@csulb.edu
  • John Garvey
  • Garvey Spacecraft Corporation
  • 389 Haines Avenue
  • Long Beach, CA 90840-1841
  • Tel:(562)-498-2984
  • Email: info@garvspace.com