StarRunner: A Single-Stage-to-Orbit, Airbreathing, Hypersonic Propulsion System

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Biltgen, Patrick Thomas
Lafleur, Jarret M.
Loughman, Josh
Martin, Robert
Flaherty, Kevin W.
Cho, Min
Becker, Keith
Ong, Chester
Olds, John R.
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In response to the request for proposal (RFP) for the 2003 AIAA Undergraduate Team Engine Design Competition, the FAS Propulsion Design team from the Georgia Institute of Technology presents StarRunner: A Single-Stage-to-Orbit (SSTO), Airbreathing, Hypersonic Propulsion System. Low-cost, highly reliable access to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and the International Space Station (ISS) is an area of continuing research and debate. StarRunner is proposed to supplement a notional Crew Transfer Vehicle through the ability to deliver a 25,000 lb payload to the ISS. The horizontal takeoff/horizontal landing (HTHL) vehicle makes use of a turbine-based combined cycle (TBCC) propulsion system consisting of 14 low-bypass-ratio turbofan engines and a dual-mode ramjet/scramjet propulsion system for high-speed flight. The vehicle also takes advantage of ultra-high-temperature ceramic thermal protection materials and uses hydrogen fuel for regenerative cooling of engine components. StarRunner is compatible with standard runways, with a gross takeoff weight of approximately 1,000,000 lbs, and has a cost per pound to orbit of approximately $825/lb. This advanced, fully reusable space transport vehicle and integrated propulsion system design demonstrates student efforts to understand issues facing the space launch community. Future enabling and enhancing technologies for TBCC SSTO launch vehicles are explored and analyzed. The final StarRunner design addresses and proposes several innovative solutions to traditional problems.
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