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Modular Launch Vehicle

As part of the NASA-funded Payload Planners Guide program, a series of supersonic, highly reusable sounding rockets are currently under construction, with all carbon composite body tube sections complete. Particular care has been taken to design for reusability and repairability compared to typical sounding rockets by replacing overlaid composite fins (the most frequently damaged components) with removable aluminum ones, and threaded inserts to prevent fatigue of the fastened joints between composite body sections, along with may other improvements. Able to loft up to a 6U cubesat in its 6" configuration, this system will allow for extremely low cost characterization of supersonic, high-g sounding rocket payload environments. A mobile launch platform with  an integrateintegrated ground support equipment is under construction and will allow for rapid launch operations and a greater number of flights. The Modular Launch Vehicle has three primary configurations, though more can  be developed upon request:

  • 6" ID, single stage vehicle

    • 10' 6" tall

    • 24" long primary payload bay

    • Typical apogee: 8000+ ft

    • Typical peak Mach: 1.1

    • ~$60 flight cost using custom hybrid rocket fuel grains

  • 4" ID, single stage vehicle​

    • 8' 9" tall​

    • 12" long primary payload bay

    • Typical apogee: 11000+ ft

    • Typical peak Mach: 1.3

    • ~$60 flight cost using custom hybrid rocket fuel grains

  • 6" booster, 4" sustainer, two stage vehicle

    • 16' 1" tall

    • 12" long primary payload bay

    • Typical apogee 25000+ ft

    • Typical peak Mach: 2+

    • $120 to $600 flight cost depending on whether hybrid or solid upper stage motor used, respectively.

These figures are for the baseline 75mm enhanced paraffin motors. We have designed the Modular Launch Vehicle system to be easily retrofitted to a larger, custom hybrid motor with 98mm oxidizer tanks and stretched 75mm combustion chambers, allowing for even better performance at a marginal cost increase. Furthermore, by actively regulating the temperature and pressure of the oxidizer in the vehicle prior to launch, SquidWorks hopes to demonstrate the capability to "dial-a-thrust-curve" by allowing the user to select between one of several certified oxidizer pressures. This will allow for last minute adjustment of the flight profile of the vehicle without changing the fuel grain.


Our work on MLV builds off of previous experience with the Chimera hybrid demonstrator rocket, which taught us lessons in reusability, launch operations,  and payload management.


6", single stage configuration


Some of the fabricated components


The Chimera hybrid demonstrator rocket, now retired after two flights in Fall 2019. Post-flight analysis of Chimera has driven several important design decisions in MLV.

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