|INTEGRATED DEFENSE SYSTEMS|
It is rocket science!
Delta IV a testament to engineers’ abilities
BY BOB HOWARD
There’s a reason they call it rocket science.
The first Boeing Delta IV rocket stands at the launch pad because of the dedication to excellence and sheer brain power that thousands of Boeing men and women across the country have brought to its design, construction and test efforts and, now, to the launch preparations for the program’s first satellite customer, Eutelsat.
Rocket scientists, in particular, have led the way from conception to imminent launch. This multidisciplined team, called Flight Systems, based in Huntington Beach, Calif., is staffed with 80 such scientists, who each day traffic in terms such as “Telemetry Ripple Voltage,” “Computational Fluid Dynamics,” “Reynolds Numbers,” “Continuum Vector/Tensor Mechanics,” “High Order Determinants,” and “Phase Plane Switch Lines.”
Led by Boeing technology chief Jim Kelso, a 30-year Flight Systems veteran, this team is responsible for creating more than 100 specialized software programs that steer and control the rocket to follow a precise course.
So, what’s it like to manage a group of rocket scientists?
“These are very smart people. You try to listen to what people tell you and try to keep the flow of information going around the group,” Kelso said.
He also shies away from the limelight.
“These exceptional engineers and scientists are the important ones,” Kelso said. “They deserve great credit for some very magnificent work.”
The team is tasked with designing the rocket’s trajectory to develop the required thousands-of-miles-per-hour ascent speeds, through mind-boggling pressures, and ensuring that all the vehicle’s complex onboard systems fly it to a specific path, into a precise orbit, unaffected by the bending and loads associated with the launch flight environment. Throw in some “Bode Plots” and “Nyquists” and it’s enough to bend your mind.
No wonder these folks can program their VCRs and we can’t. They crunch more numbers and employ more formulas than Accounting ever dreamt of—then they analyze, analyze, analyze, seemingly to infinity.
On the ground, their software and analysis products extract information from the Launch Support Databases to control the vehicle throughout the countdown and up to the moment of liftoff.
In the air, their flight software and mission constants run the flight computers responsible for controlling the vehicle—managing thousands of precise, time-specific, delicately balanced maneuvers and events.
The Flight Systems group has played an integral part in taking the Delta IV from a blank sheet of paper in October 1997 to today’s pioneering product. This new class of rocket will lift massive critical payloads into space, at an affordable rate, all preceded by the Delta legacy of quality, affordability and reliability.
The Delta IV family blends new and mature technology to launch virtually any size medium or heavy payload on one of five vehicles based on a common booster core first stage.
The new, environmentally-friendly Rocketdyne RS-68 liquid-hydrogen and liquid-oxygen power plant produces 656,000 pounds of thrust for Delta IV. Boeing mounts this engine on a CBC first-stage structure. Thirty percent more efficient than conventional liquid oxygen/kerosene engines, the RS-68 produces only steam as a combustion by-product, and Boeing Rocketdyne designed it for ease of manufacture.
Remarkably, the Delta IV second stages are restartable in flight. This means precise orbital insertions are possible, which prolong satellite lifetimes by conserving their fuel.
“It’s no accident that our Air Force customer chose to place the major portion of their initial contract launches with the Boeing Delta IV,” Kelso added. He knows at least 80 reasons why.
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