System Sensitivity Analysis Applied to the Conceptual Design of a Dual-Fuel Rocket SSTO

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Olds, John R.
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This paper reports the results of initial efforts to apply the System Sensitivity Analysis (SSA) optimization method to the conceptual design of a single-stage-to-orbit (SSTO) launch vehicle. SSA is an efficient, calculus-based MDO technique for generating sensitivity derivatives in a highly multidisciplinary design environment. The method has been successfully applied to conceptual aircraft design and has been proven to have advantages over traditional direct optimization methods. The method is applied to the optimization of an advanced, piloted SSTO design similar to vehicles currently being analyzed by NASA as possible replacements for the Space Shuttle. Powered by a derivative of the Russian RD-701 rocket engine, the vehicle employs a combination of hydrocarbon, hydrogen, and oxygen propellants. Three primary disciplines are included in the design --- propulsion, performance, and weights & sizing. A complete, converged vehicle analysis depends on the use of three standalone conceptual analysis computer codes. Efforts to minimize vehicle dry (empty) weight are reported in this paper. The problem consists of six system-level design variables and one system-level constraint, Using SSA in a "manual" fashion to generate gradient information, six system-level iterations were performed from each of two different starting points. The results showed a good pattern of convergence for both starting points. A discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of the method, possible areas of improvement, and future work is included.
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