NRC Report: Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment




Committee for the Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment; Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board; Division on Engineering and Physical Science; National Research Council

Full report

On June 15, 2011, the Air Force Space Command established a new vision, mission, and set of goals to ensure continued U.S. dominance in space and cyberspace mission areas. Subsequently, and in coordination with the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Space and Missile Systems Center, and the 14th and 24th Air Forces, the Air Force Space Command identified four long-term science and technology (S&T) challenges critical to meeting these goals. One of these challenges is to provide full-spectrum launch capability at dramatically lower cost, and a reusable booster system (RBS) has been proposed as an approach to meet this challenge.

The Air Force Space Command asked the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board of the National Research Council to conduct an independent review and assessment of the RBS concept prior to considering a continuation of RBS-related activities within the Air Force Research Laboratory portfolio and before initiating a more extensive RBS development program. The committee for the Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment was formed in response to that request and charged with reviewing and assessing the criteria and assumptions used in the current RBS plans, the cost model methodologies used to fame [frame?] the RBS business case, and the technical maturity and development plans of key elements critical to RBS implementation.

The committee consisted of experts not connected with current RBS activities who have significant expertise in launch vehicle design and operation, research and technology development and implementation, space system operations, and cost analysis. The committee solicited and received input on the Air Force launch requirements, the baseline RBS concept, cost models and assessment, and technology readiness. The committee also received input from industry associated with RBS concept, industry independent of the RBS concept, and propulsion system providers which is summarized in Reusable Booster System: Review and Assessment.

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