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Spacefleet EARL Project - Status at November 2016

Posted by: Spacefleet - Sun Nov 06, 2016 4:02 pm
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Spacefleet EARL Project - Status at November 2016 
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Post Spacefleet EARL Project - Status at November 2016   Posted on: Sun Nov 06, 2016 4:02 pm
The EARL Project is a programme to build and operate a re-usable vehicle that can take scientific payloads into sub-orbital space and return them, inside the vehicle, to a soft landing. The accent in this project is on brutal simplicity of design. That keeps the costs down by ensuring that it relies on no more new technology and highly-specified materials than absolutely necessary. The EARL vehicle is an aerodynamic lifting body, of triangular shape, with (currently) a solid-propellant) rocket motor to propel it. The EARL will be launched vertically, and after reaching apogee, will continue on a ballistic trajectory until it reaches atmosphere thick enough to allow it to glide. The last 300m of descent is accomplished on with a parachute.

The current test version of the EARL is EARL-D4, which has a hull 2.5 metres in length, 1.4 metres wide at the tail and the rocket motor is 120 mm outer diameter, and 1.8 m long, providing a thrust of around 750 kg, for 6 seconds. This should be enough to take it to an apogee of 15 km, carrying a test payload of 2 kg mass. We have planned a test programme of four flights, to take place a military range in Eastern Romania. We are waiting for a permit from the Romanian Civil Aviation Authority. We are aiming to fly the EARL-D4 next Spring.

The EARL has been designed with possibility of attaching two nearly identical hulls, launching all three clamped together. The outer two hulls will disconnect and return to soft landings, which the hull that they boosted upwards will continue to greater heights than would have been possible one hull alone. This is just like using strap-on booster with conventional rockets, but ours will be more like aircraft. In this way, we hope, eventually, with an increase in scale of the system, to get EARL vehicles into sub-orbital space, and, with a further increase in scale, into orbit, to launch (and retrieve) satellites.

Meanwhile, we are waiting for that permit. Last year we flew a sub-scale demonstrator (75 cm hull) with satisfactory results, and tested the rocket motor for the EARL-D4. You can see videos and pictures on the "Spacefleet EARL Project" Facebook site.

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