Optimizing trajectories for suborbital human spaceflight

Ryan L. Kobrick, David B. Spencer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The ANSARI X PRIZE, a $10 million cash prize for the first privately built and funded reusable spaceship to reach space twice in two weeks, has been won and the future objective for private spaceflight has expanded to reaching space as many times as possible during a fiscal year. The competition is now for the market of potential customers, and Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is leading the pack with the first purchase of a fleet of spaceships from ANSARI X PRIZE winning designer Burt Rutan. As a follow-on event to the ANSARI X PRIZE, the X PRIZE CUP will offer a venue in New Mexico for ANSARI X PRIZE teams and new teams to come and compete with their diversely designed spaceships and customized suborbital trajectories. The goals of this paper are to show how trajectories can be customized to meet the demands of the paying passenger or X PRIZE CUP contender by the manipulation of vehicle performance variables, and to develop a "menu" of possible flight options based on user defined interests. In order to accurately analyze the possible suborbital trajectories, a proven software package must be used. EasyPOST, the graphical user interface to POST3D, allows a user to easily generate multiple cases of their vehicle and flight plans. A powerful tool when used correctly, the software provides a large range of potential output variables and allows simple to complex trajectory modeling. The GoldenPalace.com Space Program Powered by The da Vinci Project, one of the 26 teams from the ANSARI X PRIZE competition, is developing a vehicle, Wild Fire Mk VI. This vehicle uses a hybrid rocket engine, and is launched from the world's largest helium balloon at 70,000 ft. Their spaceship is modeled in EasyPOST for this paper, and optimal flight profiles of trajectories for suborbital human spaceflight are generated. These trajectories were analyzed and weighed against each other to create a flight menu with different options available for a paying customer that wished to fly on a suborbital flight. Key output variables were identified to be weighed in a parametric trade off study to find the best flight for a given set of criteria. These different criteria led the development of a Flight Menu with six different choices. This method of generating a menu, and the results obtained, show that a parametric study can acquire a collection of optimized trajectories for a variety of paying passengers for suborbital human spaceflight.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSpaceflight Mechanics 2006 - Proceedings of the AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechnaics Meeting
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2006
EventSpaceflight Mechanics 2006 - AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechnaics Meeting - Tampa, FL, United States
Duration: Jan 22 2006Jan 26 2006

Publication series

NameAdvances in the Astronautical Sciences
Volume124 II
ISSN (Print)0065-3438


OtherSpaceflight Mechanics 2006 - AAS/AIAA Space Flight Mechnaics Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityTampa, FL

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science


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