Reusable Launchers: Development of a Coupled Flight Mechanics, Guidance and Control Benchmark

Pedro V M Simplicio, Andres Marcos, Samir Bennani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
327 Downloads (Pure)


This article studies the mechanics of reusable retro-propelled flight of slender low lift to-drag bodies via integrated guidance and control simulations. To do this, a simulation benchmark focused on the coupling between flight mechanics, guidance and control must be developed, as opposed to mission-optimisation oriented ones that simplify (or directly ignore) these couplings. The developed simulator covers vertical take-off and landing of a first stage booster for return to launch site and downrange landing missions. In order to steer it towards a controlled entry, followed by descent and precision landing, the vehicle is configured with a deep throttling thrust vector control system, fins and cold gas thrusters. Comparative performance results are derived in terms of aerodynamic loads and heat fluxes for both recovery scenarios, as well as through a detailed closed-loop controllability analysis. The latter demonstrates that the configuration has sufficient authority and resolution to perform stable flight and adequate wind gust rejection. The developed benchmark (because of the coupled flight mechanics, guidance and control) allows to provide a first assessment of operational limits, as well as mission and GNC specifications. This in turn paves the way for the synthesis and assessment of more sophisticated reusable launcher guidance and control algorithms.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Spacecraft and Rockets
Early online date24 Sep 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Sep 2019


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