Design and Maintainability Considerations Regarding the Effects of Suborbital Flights on Composite Constructed Vehicles

The Aerospace Corporation was tasked by the Volpe National Transportation Systems Center to provide technical support to the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA/AST), in developing guidance for AST and industry use on operational limitations and inspection requirements for suborbital reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) built using composite structures and subjected to a typical flight profile. Four representative suborbital flight profiles were selected from a previous study. A review of the literature was conducted, which included peer-reviewed journal articles, conference proceedings, and standards set forth by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), with the goal of identifying the operational environment phenomena, and their adverse effects on fiber-reinforced polymer matrix composites, and also considerations for maintenance of composites, including lessons learned in the use of composites by the aviation community. Additional contributions were obtained from interviews with various subject-matter experts at The Aerospace Corporation. Environmental phenomena, their adverse effects on composite structure, and mitigation techniques, were identified. The phenomena were not ranked, in part due to lack of substantiated and uniform fidelity and maturity of data for each, but also due to the potential for synergistic effects and for environment coupling. Additionally, further study and data are necessary to understand the influence of exposure time on the effects of these phenomena, and also the severity of their effect at a representative suborbital altitude. A substantial list of references is provided for further reading.

  • Record URL:
  • Corporate Authors:

    Aerospace Corporation

    2350 East El Sequdo Boulevard
    El Sequndo, CA  United States  90245

    Volpe National Transportation Systems Center

    Cambridge, MA  United States  02142

    Federal Aviation Administration

    Office of the Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20591
  • Authors:
    • Lundgren, Eric C
  • Publication Date: 2010-8-13


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Edition: Final Report
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 34p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01638271
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Report/Paper Numbers: DOT-VNTSC-FAA-10-13, ATR-2010(5569)-1
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT57-05-D-30103, Task 27B
  • Created Date: Jun 21 2017 12:22PM