Feasibility of guided entry for a crewed lifting body without angle-of-attack control

Zachary R. Putnam, Michael J. Grant, Jenny R. Kelly, Robert D. Braun, Zachary C. Krevor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The feasibility of flying a crewed lifting body, such as the HL-20, during entry from low Earth orbit without the steady-state body flap deflections required for angle-of-attack control was evaluated. This entry strategy mitigates the severity of the aerothermal environment on the vehicle's body flaps and reserves control power for transient steering maneuvers. A real-time numeric predictor-corrector entry guidance algorithm was developed to accommodate the range of vehicle trim angle-of-attack profiles possible in the absence of angle-of-attack control. Results show that it is feasible to steer the vehicle from low Earth orbit to a desired target with real-time guidance while satisfying a reasonable suite of trajectory constraints, including limits on peak heat rate, peak sensed deceleration, and integrated heat load. Uncertainty analyses confirm this result and show that the vehicle maintains significant performance robustness to expected day-of-flight uncertainties. Additionally, parametric scans over mission design parameters of interest indicate that a high level of flexibility is available for the low-Earth-orbit return mission. Together, these results indicate that the proposed entry strategy is feasible: Crewed lifting bodies may be effectively flown without steady-state body flap deflections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-740
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Guidance, Control, and Dynamics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Aerospace Engineering
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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