Advent Launch Services RLVs

FutureSpaceTourist

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Advent Launch Services was founded by a group of NASA retirees, led by Jim Akkerman.

From the history section of their website:

Advent Launch Services was formed in 1999, but the Advent concept started long before that. As part of the Future Programs Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, several individuals were studying ways to make the Shuttle program more cost-efficient. At the time (1990), NASA was considering boosters using liquid propellants to replace the solid propellant boosters for the Shuttle system. The initial cost analysis of the Shuttle system prompted the team’s engineers to consider features for a launcher concept that could achieve minimum cost. This was the beginning of the Advent system.

The project was an unofficial effort, done whenever there was a little time available, truly a labor of love. About a year later, a concept materialized. The concept was named Advent because it represented a new beginning for space activities. The project’s detailed cost analysis thoroughly convinced the team that orbit delivery could cost about thirty dollars per pound instead of several thousand dollars per pound. The group submitted a formal proposal to NASA in 1992, but the program concepts were never adopted. NASA even relinquished the patent rights to the special features of the Advent concept.

Now retired, the original group of engineers who began the Advent journey have competed in the ANSARI X PRIZE competition, and completed a prototype launcher with very encouraging results.

Details of their VTHL spaceplane X-prize entry are attached. The following Advent vehicle and mission information is part of the PDF file from http://space.xprize.org/ansari-x-prize/advent-launch-services:

Vehicle Specifications
  • Name: Advent
  • Length: 35 feet
  • Diameter: 4.75 feet (12 ft wingspan)
  • GTOW: 12,600 lbm
  • Dry Weight: 4,100 lbm
  • Crew Capsule: 8 feet long, 4.5 feet in diameter
  • Crew Environment: Cabin pressurized to 1 atm with no pressure suits
  • Payload Capacity: 600 lbm
  • No. of Engines: 1
  • Propulsion System: Pressure fed
  • Fuel: Liquid Methane
  • Oxidizer: Liquid Oxygen
  • Total Thrust: 18,900 lbf
  • Reaction Control System: Cold gas methane

Mission Specifications
  • Alt. at Ignition: From within the ocean
  • Orientation at Ignition: Vertical
  • Max. Accel. Force on Ascent: 4.6 g
  • Alt. at Engine Cut-off: 145,000 feet
  • Time at Engine Cut-off: 97 seconds
  • Max. Speed: 3,600 feet/second
  • Max. Altitude: 105 kilometers
  • Time in Weightless Conditions: 220 seconds
  • Reentry Method: Aerodynamic controlled glide
  • Accel. Forces on Descent: 5.2 g
  • Landing Method: Winged rocket designed to glide down to ocean surface for a safe, controlled, horizontal landing
  • Total Duration: 13 minutes
  • Landing Distance from Takeoff Location: 0 kilometers
  • Time Between Missions: approx. 4 hours
 

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FutureSpaceTourist

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Following work on their X-prize entry, ALS continued work on a TSTO concept. This is described on their website as follows:

[quote author=http://adventlaunchservices.com/?page_id=5]
The Advent spacecraft launches vertically from water and lands horizontally like a seaplane. It is a winged rocket designed to glide down to the ocean surface for a safe, controlled landing. It is safer than an airliner because it is mechanically much simpler, having fewer components, a shorter run time and very robust mechanical parts. In fact, the Advent vehicle requires only seven simple “on” or “off” signals to fully control the propulsion system. The guidance system uses redundant control surfaces on the trailing edges of the wing for propulsion efficiency, steering, atmospheric re-entry and aerodynamic control for gliding and landing.

Unlike conventional launchers, the Advent design relies on low cost propellant, cost-efficient re-entry thermal protection and SIMPLE ocean-based operations, significantly reducing the cost per pound for payload delivery. Ocean operations offer distinct advantages over land-based facilities, including greater safety due to the increased potential landing area, the flexibility of having the launch site relatively close to the payload source, and the ability to purchase both propellant and facilities at world market prices. The system is minimally constrained by local regulations, potential taxes and insurance that are typically imposed on land-based systems.

Probably the most important feature of the Advent concept is the similarity of the two stages. This is expected to significantly reduce the development cost and schedule. The development plan is to build and test the first relatively small vehicle that will eventually be used as the orbiter stage. Then another very similar vehicle will be built that is about twice the size. It will be tested much like the orbiter stage. The two will then be connected and flown for the first orbital delivery. The construction of the third vehicle will again be much like the first two. When the third vehicle is complete, the booster from the first orbiter, the second vehicle, will be used as an orbiter and the second orbit delivery system will be complete. Each new vehicle will be about twice the size of the previous vehicle and will provide the capability of increasing the payload by a factor of ten. The first system is planned for 1000-pound deliveries, the second for 10,000 pounds and the third for 100,000 pounds. The fourth delivery, with construction of the fifth vehicle is planned to deliver a million pounds to Earth orbit. All this can be accomplished with the engineering design and operational experience developed with the initial small vehicle which will be about 5 feet in diameter and 25 feet long.

The Advent concept requires no new technology or fabrication skills but does offer an exciting alternative to today’s high-cost Earth orbit delivery.
[/quote]

Further information can be found in the following two issues of the AIAA Houston chapter Horizons newsletter from 2005:

P.S. ALS don't appear to have released any large scale images, please post if you have any!
 

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RanulfC

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They have actually flown RC-Models of the design to validate the glide characteristics and from personal communications with them I was informed that the engines and vertical's on the tail make up an intergrated "linear-aerospike" arrangment using the movable tail surfaces as expansion and thrust verctoring control nozzles.

Randy
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Thanks for the extra information Randy.

I know they also did an engine test in 2003 that ended somewhat explosively! Their website talks about NASA requesting a test in 2005 but I haven't seen anything about whether or not that happened. Indeed from quick web searches I've not seen anything new since 2005?
 

FutureSpaceTourist

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Info sought: Civilian Astronauts Corps / Mayflower Rocket

It seems that in 1998, prior to Advent Launch Services, there was an organisation called the Civilian Astronauts Corps (CAC). They had a website at www.mayflowerrocket.com but unfortunately it's only partially archived. Most annoyingly there is a page with links to 'hires' images but no images themselves :(

Maybe someone has something filed away under CAC and/or images of a Mayflower rocket?
 

RanulfC

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FST;
The "Mayflower" or CAC-vehicle is the one shown in your first post. That was the "initial" design for the X-Prize/Point-To-Point version of the Advent LV. There WAS one image with the forward section having a more pointed nose and a set of delta wings but when I had the email discussion with Advent they said they believed that was a seriously older "concept" and couldn't even recall ever actually making a model of that design. (Since the picture was of a model the general conclusion we came to was someone's personal design from a general description or some such :) )

As for an engine test, they did a Methane-LOX motor run at Stennis IIRC around 2005 which was successful. Stennis needed to calibrate and run some tests for possible future Methane/LOX engine tests that were not undertaken due to NASA management (read: Griffen) directives. The Constellation program dropped any work on Methane/LOX pretty quickly once the designs for the ARES-I/V were frozen. Altair was to be an "all-storable/hypergolic" system so there was no "need" for the research. (Again this came from Griffen's office along with a straight scaling back of ANY of the advanced work originally called for under the VSE)

Randy
 

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