2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle Program: Level 1 Requirements

Status Report From: Marshall Space Flight Center
Posted: Tuesday, September 4, 2001

Note: Full document available in Word and Acrobat formats.

EFFECTIVE DATE: September 4, 2001



The U.S. Space Launch Initiative (SLI), also known as the 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (2nd Gen RLV) Program, is the central element of NASA’s Integrated Space Transportation Plan (ISTP), which is NASA’s long range strategy for safer, more reliable, and less expensive access to space. The ISTP consists of 3 major programs that include Shuttle safety upgrades, the 2nd Gen RLV Program and the 3rd Generation RLV (3rd Gen RLV) Technologies and In-Space Transportation System. The 2nd Gen RLV Program addresses 2nd Generation RLV risk reduction, NASA unique systems risk reduction, and enables alternate access to the International Space Station (ISS). Building on 20 years of success with America’s 1st Generation RLV– the Space Shuttle – the 2nd Gen RLV defines the plan of action to design and develop America’s next-generation RLV. The 2nd Gen RLV Program, is based on ˛Ńxµphilosophy that frequently launching NASA payloads on highly reliable, privately-owned-and-operated reusable launch vehicles will significantly reduce the cost of space access, allowing the Agency to focus resources on its core missions of scientific discovery and exploration.

In partnership with the Department of Defense (DoD), the U.S. aerospace industry, and academia, NASA will perform systems engineering, technology development and architecture definition trade studies to define at least two 2nd Generation RLV architecture designs that will best meet mission requirements. The NASA Research Announcement (NRA) 8—30 procurement for 2nd Generation RLV design-and-development activities took into account extensive NASA studies and contractor-provided input from NRA 8—27, which focused on detailed requirements evaluation, updated market projections, and risk-reduction priorities and plans. This systematic approach targets the research and development of high-priority advanced technologies – such as lightweight structures, long-life rocket engines, advanced crew systems, life support, robotics, flight control and avionics, and thermal protection systems – to be integrated into at least two vehicle architectures that will compete to go into full-scale development around mid-decade, with operations early next decade. The SLI, embodied in the 2nd Generation RLV Program, is NASA’s near-term plan to make access to space safer, more reliable, and less expensive for present and future customers. In this way, NASA’s mission requirements will be met more efficiently and U.S. leadership in space will continue in the new century.


The Bush Administration’s "A Blueprint for New Beginnings," released in February 2001, approved the SLI (2nd Gen RLV) as a continuing investment for Fiscal Year (FY) 2002, with great importance placed on promoting space launch opportunities for both Government and private sectors. Through the 2nd Gen RLV Program, NASA leads a team that includes DoD, U.S. aerospace industry, and academia to develop viable system architectures and technologies based on clearly defined system requirements. Therefore, the Level 1 requirements outlined in this document will serve as principal inputs and form an integral part of the systems engineering and analysis activities and trade studies in accordance with the 2nd Gen RLV Program Plan. After review by both independent external panels and internal assessment teams, it is projected that these Level 1 technical requirements will be baselined. Subsequently, Tthis document will be updated on an as-needed basis as the Program progresses.


The way to safe, reliable, and affordable access to space has been blocked by technical and business challenges. NASA’s systems analysis and engineering expertise, combined with targeted investment areas, will help remove risk barriers for 2nd Gen RLV design and development. This document presents the Level 1 technical requirements for 2nd Gen RLV architectures and initiates the systems engineering and analysis process. As such, it is a guiding instrument for all activities in the 2nd Gen RLV Program. This document relates to the development of Level 1 2nd Gen RLV architecture requirements as illustrated in Figure 1.

Note: Full document available in Word and Acrobat formats.

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