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Aerospace Planes: A New Technical Arena for the Homebuilder. EAA Oshkosh Airventure \'99 John A. Bossard. What Happened to Aerospace Development?. Aviation Saw Continuous Increases in Speed and Altitudes until WWII

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aerospace planes a new technical arena for the homebuilder

Aerospace Planes: A New Technical Arena for the Homebuilder

EAA Oshkosh Airventure \'99

John A. Bossard

what happened to aerospace development
What Happened to Aerospace Development?
  • Aviation Saw Continuous Increases in Speed and Altitudes until WWII
  • Natural Evolution of Aerospace Planes for Orbital Travel was curtailed by the Space Race
  • Significant Consequences of the Aerospace Development Path are:
    • Space Travel has left the Average Person Behind
    • Manned Spaceflight remains exceedingly limited
    • If we want to get into space, we’ll have to do it ourselves
aerospace development path characterized by discontinuous changes
Aerospace Development Path Characterized by Discontinuous Changes


Homebuilt Aerospace Planes

Military Aviation

General/Commercial Aviation

homebuilt aerospace planes a new path for aerospace development
Homebuilt Aerospace Planes:A New Path for Aerospace Development
  • Homebuilt Aerospace Planes are Achievable
  • Aerospace Planes = Airplanes + Rocket Engines
  • Homebuilt Aerospace Plane Development Synopsis
homebuilt aerospace planes are achievable
Homebuilt Aerospace Planes are Achievable
  • Homebuilt Aerospace Planes are not Impossible
    • They should be considered as merely another aerospace design optimization problem
    • High Speed Aerospace Planes have already been flown
    • Manned Orbital Space Transportation has already been achieved
  • A Huge Data base for Aerospace Planes Already Exists
    • Aerothermodynamics
    • Materials
    • Atmospheric Properties
    • Fast Information Retrieval Methods
aerospace planes airplanes rocket engines
Aerospace Planes = Airplanes + Rocket Engines
  • Synergize Vast Experience Among Builders:
    • Aircraft builders and Rocket Builders
    • Merging the efforts of these two talent pools is a powerful approach to building aerospace planes
  • Extending the Performance of Aircraft seems a more sensible approach than man-rating artillery rockets
  • Utilize Vast Array of Existing “Know-How”
    • EAA has been a continuous source of aviation advances
    • ARS has been a continuous source of rocketry advances
rocket propulsion for the homebuilt aerospace plane
Rocket Propulsion for the Homebuilt Aerospace Plane
  • Solid Rocket Motors
  • Liquid Rocket Engines
  • Hybrid Rocket Motors
  • Combined-Cycle Engines
liquid rocket engines
Liquid Rocket Engines





LOx/RP-1 Engine Test, 12,000 lbf Thrust

Photo courtesy of Space America, Inc.

hybrid rocket engines
Hybrid Rocket Engines




N20/HTTP Hybrid Engine Test, 1300 lbf thrust

Photo courtesy of HARC

combined cycle engines
Combined-Cycle Engines

The Air Turbo Rocket

  • High Thrust-to-Weight, Specific Thrust, and Isp
  • Zero to Mach 5-6 Operating Range
  • Simple
  • Integrates with Rocket Systems


Gas generator




propulsion options available to the homebuilder
Propulsion Options Available to the Homebuilder

Acceptable with

Further Development




development synopsis for the homebuilt aerospace plane
Development Synopsis for the Homebuilt Aerospace Plane
  • Design Principles
  • Characteristics
  • Significant Design Considerations
  • Building and Operating Costs
  • Example Vehicles
design principles for homebuilt aerospace planes kis 3 s
Design Principles for Homebuilt Aerospace Planes(KIS3S)
  • Think Small
  • Keep it Simple
  • Design for Safety
aerospace planes have a wider range of characteristics relative to general aviation planes
Aerospace Planes have a wider Range of Characteristics relative to General Aviation Planes
  • Aerodynamics Characterized by:
    • Compressible Flow
    • Real Gas Effects
    • Slip Flow (high Altitudes and Speeds)
  • High Propellant Fractions
  • Rocket Propulsion
  • Additional Systems:
    • Reaction Control
    • Life Support
what are the significant design considerations
What Are the Significant Design Considerations?
  • How to You Achieve Sufficiently High Propellant Mass Fractions?
  • Aero-thermodynamic Properties:
    • Vehicle Aerodynamics
    • Material Compatibilities
    • The “Up” Problems ( Burn Up, Blow Up, Break Up -> Toes Up)
  • Human Factors
  • Unknown Problems
homebuilt aerospace plane costs



Rocket Engine


Propellant tankage


Life Support



Operating Expenses


Fees and Licensing

Homebuilt Aerospace Plane Costs

Non-Recurring Costs

Recurring Costs

homebuilt aerospace plane costs1
Homebuilt Aerospace Plane Costs
  • 2-person, sub-orbital vehicle
  • 7000 lbm GLOW, 5000 lbm propellant, delta V=5000 ft/sec
  • Materials Structure $ 100,000
  • Thermal Protection $ 40,000
  • System Rocket Engine $ 250,000
  • Propellant Tankage $ 150,000
  • Pressurant System $ 90,000
  • Reaction Control System $ 65,000
  • Life Support $ 50,000
  • Comm./Nav. $ 50,000
  • on-board elec. Power $ 30,000
  • Other Instrumentation $ 20,000
  • Landing Gear $ 5,000
  • Total Cost (dry vehicle) $ 850,000
  • Propellants (per flight)
  • 3500 lbm Lox $ 700
  • 1500 lbm RP-1 $ 400

Less than


representative homebuilt aerospace plane
Representative Homebuilt Aerospace Plane

Reaction Control System

Rocket Engine

Pressurant gas

Thermal Protection

Control Surfaces (Wings and Empenage)

Crew/Recovery Compartment

Propellant Tankage

Life support

rocket powered ercoupe
Rocket-Powered Ercoupe
  • First Rocket-Powered Airplane test by U.S. Military; Aug. 12th, 1941
  • 6 solid propellant rocket motors; 3 under each wing
  • operated with and without prop thrust
  • subsonic

Photo courtesy Ercoupe Web site:

bell x 1
Bell X-1
  • Lox/Alcohol Rocket motor
  • 2000 lbf thrust
  • 1200 lbm onboard propellant
  • supersonic

Photo courtesy of the NASA Dryden Flight Research Center Photo Gallery

tgs kitten cerulean freight forwarding company
tgs Kitten Cerulean Freight Forwarding Company
  • 3-place Rocket-Powered Vehicle
  • 3 x 4880 lbf Liquid Rocket Motors; LOx and CH4 or C3H8
  • 7000 lbm Gross Lift-off Weight (GLOW)
  • 4600 lbm Propellants
  • Sub-Orbital

Image courtesy Cerulean Freight Forwarding Co.

homebuilt aerospace plane development roadmap
Homebuilt Aerospace PlaneDevelopment Roadmap



Airframe Development

TSTO Launch Aircraft

Hypersonic/Sub-Orbital Airframe

Orbital/Re-entry Airframe

1st Custom Airframe

Orbital Flight



1st Homebuilt Aerospace Plane

Orbital Aerospace Plane

2nd Gen. Aerospace Plane

Existing Rocket Engines

Custom Rocket Engine

Next Generation Propulsion

Rocket Development

challenges to the aerospace plane homebuilder
Challenges to the Aerospace Plane Homebuilder
  • Building and Operating Costs will be significantly higher than for General Aviation Aircraft
  • Integrating into the Existing Regulatory System will require perseverance and fortitude
  • Builders will be told repeatedly: “You can’t do it”
motivations for building aerospace planes
Motivations for Building Aerospace Planes
  • Fun
  • Freedom
  • Wealth
  • Adventure
  • Challenge

“For those who understand, no explanation is necessary;

For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible”

  • Homebuilt Aerospace Planes are Achievable
  • Synergy of Rocket and Aircraft Builders will make Homebuilt Aerospace Planes Possible
  • Aerospace Plane Designs Lie within the Realm of Existing Knowledge
  • LOx/RP-1 Engine Testing Video footage: Space America, Inc.
  • Kitten Image and data: Cerulean Freight Forwarding Co.
  • Hybrid Engine Testing Video Footage: High Altitude Research Corp. (256)-683-7864
  • Air Turbo Rocket Testing Video Footage: Dr. Jay Lilley U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command
the vision for homebuilt aerospace planes
The Vision for Homebuilt Aerospace Planes
  • We can build Aerospace Planes if We Want to
  • We are at the dawn of the Age of the Personal Aerospace Plane
  • Homebuilt Aerospace Planes will open up the Space Frontier for the rest of us

"....For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see,Saw the Vision of the World, and all the wonder that would be;Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails,Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales;..."-Alfred, Lord Tennyson-