Ramstar Orbital Spaceplane

Aerospace Research Systems, Inc. (ARSI), of Withamsville, Ohio, is developing its own HTHL spaceplane under the leadership of Dr. Pamela Menges, Ph.D. This unique design has already completed in-flight testing of some 80% of its advanced systems. The Ramstar (Fig. 12.2 and 12.3) will utilize an "artificial neural membrane" (ANM). The ANM technology is a new class of functional structures based on a new materials-manufacturing technology, whereby the structures themselves possess resident information processing, communications, sensing, and control systems. This technology is central to the design and operation of the Ramstar, with an ANM-based "smart skin," adaptive jet engine intakes, optronic (light-based) computing systems, and advanced life support and payload systems. ARSI smart skin technology, with the thickness of about three sheets of paper, is also being used to achieve active drag reduction using electromagnetic fields. Furthermore, microwave spikes may be used in the future to reduce heating along leading edges.

The multirole two-stage-to-orbit Ramstar will take off from a runway powered by onboard jet engines, and activate externally mounted boosters at altitude to accelerate spaceward. The vehicle may be flown either autonomously or with a crew. The highly flexible design uses a modular cockpit, modular payload bays, and minilabs that slide in on rails. This allows payloads 18 m in length and 18,800 kg in mass on autonomous missions or 12 m and 12,000 kg with crew and modular flight deck installed. The craft will sport a double-layered titanium hull with passive high-temperature coatings in addition to the active drag reduction systems. The flying testbed now nearing completion will be a scaled down version of the full-size model. The reusable booster rockets initially will use either a conventional solid propellant or a solid-liquid slurry system now being developed. These boosters are specifically designed to shut down in flight if necessary, enabling increased flexibility, greater convenience, and enhanced safety. The plan is to manufacture the Ramstar in two versions, a smaller vehicle with a turn-around time of only about

Fig. 12.2 Artist's impression of Ramstar Hypersonic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle shown about to depart from a conventional runway (courtesy Aerospace Research Systems, Inc.)

Fig. 12.3 The Ramstar Orbital Spaceplane may utilize a boron slurry in a wide-range ramjet, or use a combined-cycle turbojet/scramjet or hypersonic wave engine (courtesy Aerospace Research Systems, Inc.)

4 weeks, and a larger version with a turn-around time of 6-8 weeks. Both can be flown either with or without human crews aboard. Up to a dozen of each version could eventually be built, with production scheduled to begin in 2009.

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