RPK has adopted an innovative design approach
that enhances vehicle reliability, significantly reduces costs,
and provides flexibility to serve many customers with a range of
different requirements. The key aspects of this design approach
are summarized below.
of Proven Technologies
The K-1 design incorporates primarily existing technologies that were
adapted from other successful aerospace programs and applications.
For example, the thoroughly tested, high performance NK-33/43 engines,
developed for the Russian Moon program, are used for both the first
and second stages. This approach reduces both development cost and
Simplicity in Design
The K-1's simple design means only a limited amount of processing
is required between flights. For example, the K-1 uses kerosene fuel,
requiring far simpler storage and ground handling procedures compared
to liquid hydrogen. The K-1's Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) uses
clean propellants – ethanol and liquid oxygen (LOX) propellant.
The K-1's simple design is embodied in its Line Replacement Unit (LRU)
organization. The vehicle design is oriented around five LRUs, including
Structures, Propulsion, Landing, Thermal Protection System, and Avionics.
The design minimizes interfaces between LRUs. Faulty hardware units
are changed out and replaced with units in inventory, rather than
being serviced at the launch site. The units themselves are sent back
to contractors for service, reducing impact on launch schedules and
eliminating the need for a large launch site infrastructure.
The K-1's reusability distinguishes it from all launch vehicles currently
available. To ensure each K-1 vehicle will fly many times, the K-1's
systems are designed to be highly reliable. Vehicle structural components
are designed with large factors of safety and a minimum life cycle
of 100 flights.
The K-1's avionics and operations have also been designed to stringent
reliability requirements. Each stage of the K-1 employs a triplex
fault tolerant avionics architecture, including three fault tolerant
computers and three military-grade, radiation hardened Embedded Global
Positioning System (GPS) / Inertial Navigation System (INS) units
with a hardware voter.
RPK will demonstrate hardware reliability through repeated flights
of the same components on the same vehicle.
Integrated Vehicle Health Management System
An IVHM system is integrated into both stages of the K-1 vehicle.
Similar systems have been installed into late-generation commercial
aircraft, like the Boeing 777. After each stage is recovered, the
IVHM system is plugged into a ground computer. Telemetry from the
IVHM system reports on what systems need to be serviced. The same
IVHM system is used to perform the pre-flight checkout. In this manner,
the K-1 operations crew can quickly ready the vehicle for another
The K-1 vehicle is completely autonomous from before liftoff until
landing, eliminating the expense and complications of elaborate telemetry,
communications, and supporting ground infrastructure.
Both stages of the K-1 are processed horizontally, minimizing handling
of stages. Pioneered by the Soviet space program, horizontal processing
significantly reduces vehicle processing time and also reduces the
amount of required infrastructure. Key components can be accessed
through the ends of the vehicle stages. The stages are mounted on
pallets and aligned on rails that lead straight to the launch stand.
To mate the stages and the Payload Module, the pallets holding the
stages are pushed together and interfaces connected.
Dedicated Launch Site
Spaceport Woomera is located in the Woomera Prohibited Area (WPA),
a 127,000 square kilometer region in the desert of South Australia.
RPK has leased approximately 30 square kilometers from the Australian
Commonwealth for exclusive use as the K-1 launch site. This gives
RPK a tremendous advantage over many other launch service providers,
who must schedule their launch activities around the activities of
other companies sharing the same site. Spaceport Woomera also has
very favorable and predictable weather for launch activities. A second
launch site planned for Nevada USA has similar benefits.
Extensive Use Of Simulation
The K-1's guidance and control design is being extensively tested
through simulation with hardware-in-the-loop at Draper Laboratory.
Actual flight hardware has been tested and will continue to be tested
at Draper prior to installation in the K-1 vehicle. Brassboards are
used in place of flight hardware for longer lead items until those
units become available. RPK's verification strategy assures reliable
and safe operation of the K-1.
RPK's design approach is intended to produce simplicity and economy
in operations. We expect that these design principles will enable
us to conduct a high rate of launches with our K-1 vehicle fleet,
achieve a nine-day turnaround for each vehicle, and significantly
reduce the price of space access.