Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV)
Transformational Space Corp. entered the second-round competition for NASA funding for innovative Earth-to-orbit crew and cargo transportation services. AirLaunch LLC of Kirkland, WA, will provide the air-launched booster to t/Space, leveraging the development of its QuickReach" Small Launch Vehicle currently under way. To further minimize technical and programmatic risk and to reduce cost, t/Space's spacecraft incorporates the reentry capsule shape used by return capsules from U.S. Corona reconnaissance satellites in the 1960s and uses a pilot instead of automated systems to rendezvous and dock with ISS and planned commercial habitats. A crewed demonstration flight is planned for 2010 -- eliminating the gap between the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2010 and the initial flight of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV) several years later.
t/Space was one of six finalists in the 2006 COTS competition. After NASA selected two competitors for funding, t/Space signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA in February 2007. This agreement enabled t/Space to share in the ISS program and technical data NASA has been supplying to the funded participants, and to keep the space agency informed about its progress.
In 2006, t/Space was one of six finalists in NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services competition for development funding, out a field of more than 20 companies. The company proposed a three-person spacecraft that will carry 2,000 lbs. of cargo to the ISS, or to commercial space habitats now under development. t/Space plans an innovative approach in which its spacecraft and the accompanying booster will be released from a carrier aircraft over ocean to enhance safety, increase responsiveness and reduce costs. Development is expected to culminate with a crewed flight to orbit in late 2010.
In 2005, t/Space completed a $6 million NASA contract to assist the agency's evaluation of strategies and methods for implementing the return to the Moon as part of NASA's Vision for Space Exploration. In addition to economic and engineering analyses, t/Space built and field-tested hardware for its planned Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV), including several successful drop tests of a mockup from Scaled Composites' Proteus aircraft over the Mojave desert.
/Space's Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV) is an innovative spacecraft capable of carrying crew to the International Space Station or other low Earth orbit destinations for $20 million per flight. Based on the Discoverer and Corona capsules, the CXV utilizes a proven re-entry design to maximize safety and survivability of the crew. The CXV is launched into space on a booster released from a carrier aircraft, which enhances safety, performance, and flexibility. Preliminary design of the CXV and launch system was conducted under t/Space's "Concept Exploration and Refinement" contract with NASA.
The t/Space CXV and Earth-to-orbit system is intended to dramatically lower the cost of human space flight, allowing NASA to focus its scarce resources on exploration beyond low Earth orbit, while opening space to the public for the first time. The CXV can be used to transfer NASA astronauts to a waiting CEV for a journey to the Moon. The CEV can be launched to orbit uncrewed, then checked out, saving NASA the cost to human rate the CEV launch vehicle.
Air launching from an altitude of 25,000 to 30,000 ft. provides far safer abort modes during the first few critical seconds of flight. An on-pad abort for a ground-launched vehicle is difficult, because the escape system must release tremendous energy to lift the capsule high enough to enable parachute deployment -- and it must be able to reliably travel only up, not sideways or down. By comparison, an abort-at-ignition for an air-launched vehicle allows the capsule to depart in any direction, using modest energy, and the capsule is already high enough for parachute deployment.
The booster utilizes a simple design for fewer failure modes, greatly enhancing reliability of the system and survivability of the crew. The engine design has very few moving parts -- there are no turbopumps or pressurization systems. Vaporization pressure of the heated fuel and oxidizer are used to feed the engines using a technique known as "VAPAK."
The capsule shape provides safe reentry, even if all control systems have failed, automatically righting itself as it descends into the atmosphere regardless of its initial orientation .
The capsule's thermal protection system, comprised of a double layer of SIRCA tiles developed by NASA Ames Research Center, shields the vehicle and crew from the heat of reentry. Water landing of the capsule uses proven systems from the Apollo program and allows the aeroshell to remain unpenetrated by landing gear, airbag doors, or hatches. As 70 percent of the Earth's surface is ocean, water landing is important to enable safe abort under all circumstances.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|