De Stefano Fumo, M., Guidotti, G., Paletta, N., Richiello, C. et al., "USV3: An Autonomous Space Vehicle with Re-Entry and Landing Capability," SAE Technical Paper 2013-01-2196, 2013, doi:10.4271/2013-01-2196.
CIRA, the Italian Aerospace Research Centre, in the framework of the national space program has carried out a feasibility study of a future re-entry spacecraft concept with automatic re-entry and landing operational capability. Such vehicle will be injected in a LEO orbit (i.e. 300km) by the VEGA launcher to execute few revolutions around the Earth and then perform an automatic re-entry flight. After de-boosting by the VEGA AVUM upper stage the vehicle will execute an autonomous flight from hypersonic to subsonic regimes allowing terminal area energy maneuvers, approach and landing on conventional runways.Different challenging design and technology performance shall be fulfilled by the vehicle configuration, materials and functional architecture. In particular, the vehicle shall exhibit improved aerodynamic and maneuverability characteristics together with innovative GNC approach allowing more flexibility in the re-entry trajectories, as compared to typical lifting re-entry vehicles. Possible re-entry trajectory duration beyond one hour is particularly challenging for TPS design, because it has a direct impact on the thickness of the insulator used to protect the internal cold structure and avionics subsystems. A new challenging task of autonomous landing on conventional runway was added to this vehicle compared with previous CIRA studies and experiences and asking for a landing gear design constrained by the limited volume available and the high speed at touch down.The present paper describes, after a general overview of the mission and vehicle requirements and of the mission scenario, the main results of the analysis carried out during feasibility phase of the study on Aerodynamics and Aerothermodynamics, Re-entry Trajectories, Structures and Mechanisms, Thermal Protection System and on the overall system.