Doug Messier continues his review of some of the more interesting entries in the recent selection of SBIR award winners. Here he looks at the Petal Brake Hypersonic Entry System project at Andrew Space in : Andrews Space Works on Aerocapture System for Planetary Probes, ISS Cargo Return – Parabolic Arc.
The primary application of the petal brake decelerator is for
> the aerocapture and aerobraking of large payloads into Mars or other planetary atmospheres.
However, it could also be used for recovering suborbital and orbital payloads such as
> recovery of launch stage hardware for reuse. SpaceX is planning on recovering their Falcon 1E and Falcon 9 second stage, and the deployable petal brake could be an enabler given their physical size and configuration. Booster recovery could also be enhanced by deployable interstage drag devices.
I don’t see anything currently on the Andrews site specifically about the Petal Brake system but here is a page describing there previous work on reentry ballute technology. === The ultimate Popular Science space transport article – rail gun + scramjets: NASA Engineers Propose Combining a Rail Gun and a Scramjet to Fire Spacecraft Into Orbit – Popular Science.
I doubt catapult launch systems can offer superior cost-effectiveness to fully reusable two stage rocket vehicles for LEO access until we need daily deliveries of people and materials to orbit. I wish the rail gun program at NASA would focus instead on development of a system that could be installed on the Moon at the lowest possible cost, e.g. by maximizing use of local construction materials. A cheap way to deliver fuel derived from lunar water to orbital fuel depots would help enable an in-space transportation system.