Design Optimization of Space Launch Vehicles Using a Genetic Algorithm
Type of DegreeDissertation
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The United States Air Force (USAF) continues to have a need for assured access to space. In addition to flexible and responsive spacelift, a reduction in the cost per launch of space launch vehicles is also desirable. For this purpose, an investigation of the design optimization of space launch vehicles has been conducted. Using a suite of custom codes, the performance aspects of an entire space launch vehicle were analyzed. A genetic algorithm (GA) was employed to optimize the design of the space launch vehicle. A cost model was incorporated into the optimization process with the goal of minimizing the overall vehicle cost. The other goals of the design optimization included obtaining the proper altitude and velocity to achieve a low-Earth orbit. Specific mission parameters that are particular to USAF space endeavors were specified at the start of the design optimization process. Solid propellant motors, liquid fueled rockets, and air-launched systems in various configurations provided the propulsion systems for two, three and four-stage launch vehicles. Mass properties models, an aerodynamics model, and a six-degree-of-freedom (6DOF) flight dynamics simulator were all used to model the system. The results show the feasibility of this method in designing launch vehicles that meet mission requirements. Comparisons to existing real world systems provide the validation for the physical system models. However, the ability to obtain a truly minimized cost was elusive. The cost model uses an industry standard approach, however, validation of this portion of the model was challenging due to the proprietary nature of cost figures and due to the dependence of many existing systems on surplus hardware.